Doorstep delivery of rations in Delhi is unnecessary, will drain public resources, say activists

 

On July 4, hours after the Supreme Court verdict ruled that Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor is bound by the “aid and advice” of the state government’s council of ministers in all matters under its jurisdiction, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal held a cabinet meeting. During that meeting, according to a social media post Kejriwal wrote, he “directed [officials] to expedite proposals of doorstep delivery of rations”. The Aam Aadmi Party government had accused Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal of blocking this plan. But the Capital’s right to food experts do not think the proposal, first announced in March, will address the problems in making essential food grains available at subsidised rates to Delhi’s poorest families – a legal entitlement under the National Food Security Act 2013.Under the existing Targetted Public Distribution System or Targetted PDS, the state procures wheat, rice and sugar from a central stock and then sells fixed quotas of grain – 5 kg per family member – at a highly subsidised price through a network of fair price shops. The eldest woman in the family is the ration-card holder. There are over 19 lakh ration card holders in Delhi, where about 72 lakh individuals depend on subsidised food.However, the government’s insistence on linking Aadhaar – the 12-digit biometrics-based personal identification number – with the PDS scheme has led to widespread exclusion from it. Aadhaar is mandatory both at the point of obtaining ration cards and during transactions at ration shops, where authentication via Aadhaar biometrics was made compulsory in January.By the Delhi government’s estimates, about 2.5 lakh families were not getting rations because of Aadhaar-related glitches. This is the reason why, on February 20, the state government put Aadhaar-based sales of rations on hold. On March 6, the Delhi Cabinet decided that it would introduce “doorstep delivery of food grains”, or home delivery, by engaging a private party. The announcement carried scant details beyond saying it is “aimed at removing the problems faced by ration beneficiaries” and that packaging grains in sealed packets will help control pilferage and adulteration. The government has not placed in the public any policy document giving details of this plan.
According to those who work with the government, Kejriwal advisor Gopal Mohan is working closely with the project. Scroll.in reached out to him, seeking clarity on the proposal. But Mohan did not respond to calls or text messages. An email with questions to Delhi’s Department of Food, Supplies and Consumer Affairs went unanswered as well. This report will be updated if either of them responds.
‘Potential for corruption’Several experts have grave misgivings about the proposal to distribute rations door-to-door.
Amrita Johri of Delhi Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyan and economist Reetika Khera point out that it does not solve the problem of exclusion due to Aadhaar.