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Why not include fair price shops in doorstep ration scheme: Delhi HC to govt

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing the government, submitted that there was no point in having 1,500-2,000 fair price shops when 69 lakh out of 72 lakh people have opted for home delivery of ration.

Written by Sofi Ahsan | New Delhi |
Updated: December 3, 2021 7:07:43 pm
Delhi doorstep ration scheme, Ration, Delhi HC, Delhi high court, Delhi government, fair price shops, Delhi news, Delhi latest news, Indian express, Indian express news, current affairsThe High Court listed the next hearing on December 16. (File Photo)

The Delhi High Court Friday asked the Delhi government why it did not choose to implement the doorstep delivery of ration scheme through the chain of existing fair price shops to avoid the opposition against it.

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing the government during the resumed hearing of a petition filed by the Delhi Sarkari Ration Dealers Sangh against the scheme, submitted that there was no point in having 1,500-2,000 fair price shops when 69 lakh out of 72 lakh people have opted for home delivery of ration. When the court asked Singhvi to explain how the number had come about, he responded that people were asked to send an SMS to opt out of the proposed scheme.

The division bench of Justice Vipin Sanghi and Justice Jasmeet Singh asked that since the government was introducing something new, why was an option to opt in not given. “The strata which we are dealing with… those who are going to receive the foodgrain under TDPS… most of them are illiterate, semi-literate, those who don’t bother to read what SMS has come. It depends upon how you are posing the question,” said the court.

Singhvi responded that there is a very high mobile savviness in Delhi and “common sense” says that nobody will refuse delivery of ration at home. He further contended that nobody among the beneficiaries has approached the court against the scheme.

The government also argued that the National Food Security Act (NFSA) in any manner does not prohibit delivery of entitlements to doorstep and told the court that 70 fair price shops at circle level will continue to exist. The central government cannot fix that number as the implementation has to be done by the state government, submitted Singhvi.

“If I want under the scheme to make something more efficient, can your lordship contemplate that till Parliament gets time to legislate and amend this Act again for next 20 years, nobody can have improvement in this running scheme. There is no prohibition. I am not abolishing anything. I am tweaking it to add it,” he submitted.

The court said people carry a poor impression of fair price shops because there used to be a lack of regulation and check on the kind of practices they were engaging in. However, the court questioned how those who would be brought in by the government under the new scheme for delivery of ration would be any different.

“These technological advancements which have been there … the ePos, the geotagging etc… these are all measures which have been put in place to check all those malpractices, pilferage. If it cannot be done through the new process, by bypassing these FPS, why can’t it be done through them. That is the only point. If it can be done through all those checks in place, then that serves everybody’s purpose. We are telling you all this so that you may want to consider… that takes wind out of the sails,” said the court.

However, the government said the object of the new scheme is not the sustainability and viability of the fair price shops but the benefit of people. The fair prices shops were only a medium, it said.

“The problem cannot always be the solution. We have put on record to show the glaring nepotistic practices… They want the vested interest and architecture to continue. There is a parallel system without total abolition and with an option for them to participate,” submitted Singhvi.

On November 22, the Centre had argued that fair price shops play an important role in the implementation of the NFSA. Additional Solicitor General Aishwarya Bhati argued that a state is required to ensure execution of the law in a manner mandated under it. Bhati said the state was free to provide benefits more than what is given under the NFSA but “cannot mitigate the benefits of NFSA”.

The petition challenged the tenders issued towards implementation of the home delivery of ration scheme, which seeks to create a parallel mechanism for distribution of ration under the PDS scheme through private dealers at the doorstep of people.

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