The Sheila Dikshit-led Congress Government was accused of hurriedly rolling out the food security scheme in the Capital eyeing the upcoming Delhi elections. However, it is these same elections which may delay the process of distribution of the food security ‘smart cards’ that will entitle 44 per cent of the city’s population to access grains at subsidised rates.

With elections expected to be notified by the end of the month, the Department of Food and Civil Supplies will have no choice but to abide by the model code of conduct set down by the Election Commission.

Food and Civil Supplies Secretary S.S. Yadav told The Hindu that an “informal” deadline of October 31 has been fixed to collect forms under the scheme and ‘smart cards’ will tentatively be ready for distribution by November. “This is subject to approval by the Election Commission,” he said. “If allowed, we will start issuing cards in November otherwise the process will begin only by mid-December.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Yadav said the rollout of the scheme has been “on track” ever since benefits were made available to priority households from September 1. Not only have rations been distributed to 6.5 lakh ration card holders, the consignment of food grains for October has also started reaching fair price shops, he said. “For now, beneficiaries are receiving the entitlements on their existing ration cards.”

With the last batch of ration cards made five years back, the Department of Food and Civil Supplies is also inviting applications from those who are eligible as per guidelines. “Some people may have been left out of the Public Distribution System and more people have moved to Delhi in the last few years. So, we have also started enrolling eligible persons under phase-2 of the enrolment process,” said Mr. Yadav.

For now, the government is cashing in on the “enthusiastic” group of people who are thronging ration offices and Gender Resource Centres (GRC) to submit filled up forms. “As a second stage, through GRCs, we will go door-to-door with forms and request them to enrol. The third stage will be taken up by NGOs who are working closely with homeless people, rag-pickers, street children and women in distress.”

While households having annual income of less than Rs.1 lakh per annum will be eligible, income tax payers, vehicle and house owners, government employees or any household with an electricity connection of above 2 kW will not be eligible to avail benefits under the food security scheme.

Thus, the forms submitted by the public will be scrutinised by first linking it to the Aadhaar server to compare if basic information is correct. “We will then compare it with data of income tax payees, data of transport department, data of property tax from the municipal corporation and electricity connections,” said Mr. Yadav. Since this will weed out ineligible households, field verification of the rest of the ration card holders will continue, pending issuance of the new smart cards.

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