Deepak Kumar is like any other 18-year-old. He has spiked hair, a goatie and is dressed in skinny jeans and a well-fitted shirt. Even though he has not “officially” commenced his Political Science degree, he puts his practical knowledge from volunteering with JOSH--an NGO in Trilokpuri--to good use.
“If you notice there are no traffic lights in Trilokpuri,” he declares, as he dodges a Grameen Seva vehicle, on the “short walk” between JOSH’s office in Block 5 to Block 32. “These Grameen Seva drivers always try to overtake each other…” he continues.
The sun beats down on Trilokpuri, a resettlement colony in East Delhi that stands on the fringes of Mayur Vihar Phase-I as Deepak talks about the local market that sprouts up after dark and the upcoming elections being the reason for the “unusually” clean surroundings. In his hand is a notebook that has names of his “case studies”--potential beneficiaries of the food security scheme who have been denied benefits for lack of an Aadhaar card.
It is Tuesday, the same day that the Supreme Court upheld its interim order that no person be deprived of availing social benefits for want of an Aadhaar card, and had turned down the plea of the Centre to modify its earlier order.
Deepak and his teammate 19-year-old Mukesh Haldar are both aware of the Supreme Court’s stance. “Our team has been looking at the Right to Food Scheme that was launched on August 20. For the last two months, we have been interacting with people in this neighbourhood to record their experiences with availing benefits under this scheme,” says Deepak.
Mukesh himself serves as a “case study” having approached the Food Office in Mayur Vihar Phase-I seeking benefits for his family. “I noticed that on the forms submitted by people, the names of those without Aadhaar cards were being cut off,” he says. “The authorities said they will only accept Aadhaar cards and when I pointed out that it had become voluntary I was told to take it up with the Chief Minister,” he adds.
At JOSH’s minority resources centre in Trilokpuri’s Block-32, Deepak asks 32-year-old Najma Jafru, a resident of nearby Ambedkar Camp, if she gets benefits under the food security scheme. “Both my son and I have Aadhaar cards but my husband doesn’t. Despite this we have not received rations,” she says.
Kushboo Khan (16), who quietly listens to Najma, was among those who lined up as early as 4 a.m. to register for the Aadhaar. “My siblings and I had to register for the card very recently since they were not giving us rations otherwise. Only my parents had registered for the card, so our family of six, was getting only 10 kg of wheat and 2 kg of rice,” she says.
The volunteers are also preparing questions to put forth to the government under the RTI Act, says JOSH’s programme coordinator Priyanka Rustagi.