Outside Sarvodaya Kanya Vidyalaya No. 2 in Delhi’s post East of Kailash, among those waiting in a line on Thursday is Pooja, a student of the school. The 16-year-old has been here for one-and-a-half hours, having arrived at 7.30 am with her pink school backpack — this time to carry home rations promised by the Delhi government.

“Both my parents restarted work just a few days ago, so I am here. I came yesterday also but the rations finished after 15 people had received them. I reached early today, hoping to get a token. I called my class teacher too to ask if she knew when the supply would come, but she said she didn’t know,” Pooja said.

Under the drive that started June 5, the Delhi government is giving 4 kg wheat and 1 kg rice to people not covered by the PDS as a one-time benefit, with schools set up as distribution centres. The government estimated two lakh people would avail of the scheme initially, with the numbers going up to 20 lakh “as per demand and need assessment”.

However, a Food and Supplies Department official said, the numbers are much more than the government envisaged. “The initial supply for 2 lakh beneficiaries got exhausted in two days. Following that, we placed an order for 8 lakh beneficiaries on June 7. As and when this is arriving, it is being distributed to schools,” said the official.

On Thursday, anger bubbled among those standing in queue, on one of the season’s hottest days, outside a government school in Sangam Vihar. A note stuck to its large metal gate read: “Ration khatam ho gaya hai, jab aayega milega. Pataa nahin kab tak aayega (Ration is over, you will get it when it comes. Don’t know when that will be).”

Having returned empty-handed earlier too, several argued with the school guards over the lack of supplies.

“Today is the fourth day I’ve come to find there are no supplies. Every day we come in the morning and wait in the heat hoping that the van with the ration will come. I wait till 2 pm in a galli (lane) near the school, where there is some shade. After that, the school guards send us away,” said Birna, 32.

She worked as a domestic worker until two months ago, when the latest round of Covid restrictions began. Her daily wage labourer husband started getting work again just two days ago.

Next to her, Anita, 35, muttered, “Ration toh nahin milega, corona milega (We may not get ration, but we will definitely get Covid).”

The Indian Express visited four schools across the Capital to find the situation was the same. Some people decided it was pointless to wait and left after enquiring about the status of supplies.

At 11 am, there are no people outside a school in Hauz Rani, with a note similar to the one at the Sangam Vihar school stuck at the gate: “The previous ration is over. The fresh stock hasn’t arrived.”

At a school in Chirag Delhi, Meena, 28, a domestic worker, said she had stopped by to see if the distribution had restarted. “On the first day, I reached at 5 am, hoping to be among the first to receive the ration. When the gate finally opened at around 10, there was such a rush and so much pushing and shoving that I didn’t get a token. Only a few people got supplies.”

She said she had returned the following days too, only to go back disappointed. “Since I have just rejoined work, and only at one house, I’ve decided not to waste my time here.”

Meena added that with both her and her husband, a driver, not getting enough work, they have not been able to pay house rent for five months.

Among those standing at the Chirag Delhi school gate is Pradeep Mandal, 60. He came right after a 12-hour shift as a security guard, which ended at 8 am. He retained his job during the Covid restrictions, but his wife lost hers as a caretaker.

“I came yesterday as well after my shift and waited till 11 am,” Mandal said. “It doesn’t look like we’ll have any luck today either.”

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