June 8, 2021 9:28:37 pm
Three days after its launch, the Delhi government’s lockdown relief drive to distribute ration among those not holding ration cards ran into a major hurdle on Tuesday, as a large number of temporary centres set up for this purpose ran out of stocks.
In a statement, the government acknowledged the crisis, saying it has placed orders with the Food Corporation of India (FCI) for more food grains, “which will arrive soon”. The drive was launched on June 5 across 280 municipal wards of the city.
Reports of people being turned away from centres poured in from across the city. Volunteers of the Delhi Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyan (DRRAA) reported instances of centres turning away people at Seemapuri, Hauz Rani, Munirka, Narela, Shahpur Jaat, R K Puram, Safdarjung Enclave, New Ashok Nagar, and Tughlaqabad Extension among others.
Across centres, notices were put up informing people about the exhaustion of stock. Ration uplabdh nahi hai, aane par soochna de di jayegi (Ration is not available. Will be updated after stock is replenished)” said one such notice at Tughlaqabad Extension.
The government did not respond to a query on how much food grains have been disbursed under the drive over the last three days. Last year, the Delhi High Court had directed the government to upload daily distribution reports of such relief drives on the website of the food department.
Under the drive, beneficiaries are being given 4kg wheat and 1 kg rice. The benefit of ration under this initiative will be provided to a maximum of two lakh beneficiaries at the initial phase and “later as per demand and need assessment from the field, up to the maximum of twenty lakh beneficiaries,” the government had earlier said in a statement.
When contacted on Tuesday, Food Minister Imran Hussain said, “A large number of people turned up at several centres in excess of what was expected. But people should not be concerned. We have placed orders with the FCI for more food grains, which will arrive soon. We have taken note of all kinds of grievances reported by people. We assure you that things will be further streamlined in the coming days to make the entire process smooth and hassle-free. The Aam Aadmi Party government believes that ration is the right of people.”
Food rights activist Anjali Bhardwaj, a member of the Delhi Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyan (DRRAA), said the crisis was expected all along as the government should have known that the cap of two lakh is “grossly inadequate”.
“People turned up at centres from 3 am in the morning. They stood under the scorching sun, as the temperature rose to 42 degrees celsius, only to be turned away. This is no way to treat people in distress. We kept telling the government that the cap of two lakh makes no sense as the distress is more grim this year. People have even run out of whatever little savings they had,” Bhardwaj told The Indian Express.
The government had said that needy persons who don’t possess ration cards, including unorganised workers, migrant workers, building and construction workers, and domestic help are eligible to receive food grains under this relief initiative.
In a statement, the DRRAA said: “Last year, following the orders of the Delhi High Court in the DRRAA case, 69.6 lakh persons who did not possess ration cards, registered under the e-coupon scheme and were provided rations. It is pertinent to highlight that last year during the lockdown, the Delhi High Court, on a petition moved by DRRAA, had ordered that all persons in need of food security be provided rations irrespective of whether they possess a ration card. Therefore, no predefined maximum limit should be prescribed.”
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