Smart card for assured food,promised and then held uphttps://indianexpress.com/article/news-archive/web/smart-card-for-assured-food-promised-and-then-held-up/

Smart card for assured food,promised and then held up

The scheme carries the promise of 5 kg foodgrains every month at Re 1 to Rs 3 per kg.

Omwati Devi,45,says she was among the first few people from a recently regularised colony in East Delhi to apply for a government scheme that sounded “too good to be true”. Delhi was the first state to launch the food security scheme,the UPA’s flagship project,and Omwati says she applied within weeks of the August 20 announcement.

Since then,Omwati and most of her neighbours have been waiting for the smart card and the promised subsidised supplies. The allotment of smart cards was halted in the capital since October 4,when the the model code of conduct for the Delhi polls came into effect. Only one family at East Vinod Nagar’s Jaybharati camp,where Omwati lives,is known to have managed to get the card although,residents point out,everyone applied around the same time.

“They announced the scheme like it would change the world for us,” says Omwati. “They said we would get cards within days and the ration supplies would start soon after. But when we submitted our applications after fighting our way through the crowds,they did not inform us it would be delayed because of the elections.”

Only after her husband and other men from the colony went to ask about the delay,she says,were they told they would have to wait “a few months”. Others say the government “must have known” it would have to stop issuing cards before the polls,and officials should have informed the applicants about it.

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“Only one family,that of Manju Devi,has managed to get the card and they are getting rations,” says Sunita Devi of the same colony. The scheme carries the promise of 5 kg foodgrains every month at Re 1 to Rs 3 per kg,with the family’s most senior woman counting as its head. It includes families with an annual income less than Rs 1 lakh,people covered under Antyodaya Anna Yojana,BPL card holders,juggi ration card and resettlement colony ration card holders,constituting almost 44 per cent of Delhi’s population. People who own a house or a vehicle,government employees or any household with an electricity connection above 2 kW are not eligible.

“What was the point of announcing the scheme when they knew they would not be able to continue issuing cards?” says Sunita Devi. “These are just election ploys to fool poor people like us.” Both she and Omwati have Aadhar cards —the government had said they would verify applixcants’ details through these cards.

Surjo Devi of Mandavli C-block Unchepar says,“When I went to government officials about it,they said I would only get it after elections. But I have an Aadhar card.” She gets ration on her existing ration card,but “the quantity is low”.

Manju Devi,reportedly the only resident who has managed a card,is the talk of the colony. When approached,her son is scared his card may be withdrawn if “too much attention” is brought on them. “We applied with everyone. We don’t know how we got the card first,but we did not do anything irregular,” he says before shutting the door.

Government officials admit many people are waiting for their smart cards after the code of conduct came into effect,but add the targets of the first phase of the scheme have been issued cards. According to Food and Supplies Minister Haroon Yusuf,the government shortlisted 32 lakh people from the applications and issued them cards on a “priority basis”.

“All these 32 lakh people are getting rations. For the next lot of around 41 lakh,the application process has started,they will also be given cards in the next two months. But we have ensured everyone gets rations on their existing cards,” Yusuf says.

Senior officials,however,admit lakhs of fresh applications are pending. “We have received fresh applications from another 15 lakh people until October 31,but we can begin the field verification,scrutiny of forms and issuance of cards only after the code of conduct is lifted,” a senior official says.

The total number of expected beneficiaries is 73 lakh,a target set for December or January.

Officials had approached the Election Commission to continue distribution of cards on the ground that the project had been announced before the code of conduct came. “We approached the chief electoral office but were told to discontinue as it would violate the code,“the official says.

Election Commission officials say the identification of new prospective beneficiaries and issuance of fresh cards had to stop. “The process of issuing new cards will resume after December 8,when the results are declared,” says Ankur Garg,in-charge of implementing the code of conduct in the Delhi poll office.