Non-cardholders return empty handed as ration runs dry: NGO report

For the past four day, Kushma, a resident of Jagdamba camp in south Delhi, has been lining up before a nearby school that is distributing free foodgrains to non-ration cardholders. But with no luck.

“I usually turn up at the centre at 5 a.m. and stay there till around 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. But the centre only entertains a limited number of people every day and turn down the remaining,” said Ms. Kushma who lives with her daily wager husband and two children.

Lot of confusion

In another jhuggi jhopdi (JJ) cluster in Motilal Nehru camp near Munirka here, 30-year-old Kisna said there was a lot of confusion over where ration will be provided for those who doesn’t have a card. “I came to know only today that there is a centre in Ber Sarai. I will go there on Thursday,” she said.

Like, Ms. Kushma, her family has also been hit by the latest COVID-19 wave. “My husband, who is a plumber, has got work on 14 days so far this month. The free ration would be of great help,” she said.

During the second wave of COVID-19 last year, the Delhi government formulated a policy to provide ration to people without cards (non-public distribution scheme). The policy provided for 5 kg of grain per person as a one-time relief and had a predetermined cap of 20 lakh people.

Subsequently, the Delhi government removed the cap of number of people to be covered under the scheme and also did away with the restriction of one-time distribution making it need-based till the pandemic continues.

A recent report published by NGO Delhi Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyan (DRRAA) said that dry ration was not being distributed to migrant workers, daily wagers, domestic workers, rickshaw pullers, etc. who do not possess ration cards at several designated distribution centres.

‘Barely functional’

Activist Anjali Bhardwaj said the scheme of providing ration to those who do not possess ration cards is barely functional as the government has not supplied ration stock in most designated centres.

“It is a matter of grave concern that during the COVID-19 pandemic when people are bearing the brunt of financial distress due to the various restrictions and lockdowns, the Delhi government is failing to ensure basic food security to its people,” the NGO said.

“Providing ration to those who doesn’t possess cards, and undertaking timely disbursal of foodgrains under the PDS are key to ensuring food security and preventing hunger and starvation,” the NGO said.

The NGO said that 282 schools have been designated as distribution centres for non-PDS ration where people can walk in and register and avail grains. Between January 19 and 21, 2022, DRRAA volunteers checked the status of distribution at 76 out of the 282 schools designated as distribution points located in Chirag Delhi, Mangolpuri, New Seemapuri, Sangam Vihar, Nehru Nagar, Sarojni Nagar, Ashok Vihar, Badarpur, Vivek Vihar, Rohini, Shakarpur, Trilokpuri, Shahdara, etc. by either visiting the schools or contacting them over phone.

Turning away people

“We found that 79% had no stock of ration and were therefore, not supplying ration to people. The schools were turning away people who were seeking ration. People reported queuing up from 4 a.m. in the hope to get foodgrains from the schools,” the DRRAA said.

Responding to the NGO’s report, the Delhi government told The Hindu , “these are completely baseless allegations, crafted to raise a false sense of alarm”.

“The Kejriwal government is fully committed towards the underprivileged and as per the demand, dry ration are being provided to non-PDS beneficiaries from 86 centres. At least 82 such centres are constantly distributing ration to all beneficiaries,” a government official said.

“As of January 21, 2022, over 37,000 beneficiaries have collected ration this month, whereas a total of 33.77 lakh beneficiaries collected their ration in 2021-22. The Kejriwal government stands firmly in support of the rights of the poor and is doing its best to ensure that no one sleeps hungry at night,” the official said.

Corroborating with the government’s statement, two residents of Motilal Nehru camp here, Prema and Gyanvati, said that they managed to get hold of their share of dry ration only this morning after trying for the past four days.

However, Poonam, another resident of Motilal Nehru camp, said she and a few others were yet to get their share.

“I have been going to the centre for the past two days. There is always a lot of crowd at the centre. I usually turn up around 4 a.m., leaving my children at home. Now that tomorrow is a holiday on account of Republic Day, I will try my luck on Thursday,” she said.

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Printable version | May 18, 2022 2:46:14 pm |