The tussle between Delhi government and Centre over doorstep delivery of ration turned bitter today with the Chief Minister accusing the Central government of blocking it. Activists have questioned the scheme, saying there are multiple loose ends and there has been no discussion on the proposed project. The ration shop owners have also raised questions — saying 10,000 people they employ will become jobless.
The scheme is going to affect 72 lakh people who receive subsidised wheat, sugar and rice each month. It was a key promise in Aam Aadmi Party’s 2020 poll manifesto and was set to launch in March.
But the Centre has argued that the Delhi government will collect additional milling, packaging and handling charges, which goes against the National Food Security Act.
On Saturday, the Delhi government claimed Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal had turned it down, saying the Centre’s approval has not been sought and a case on the scheme is pending in the high court.
“Just two days before the implementation of ‘Doorstep Delivery of Ration’ scheme, the Central government stopped it. If pizza, burgers, smartphones and clothes can be delivered at home, then why can’t ration be delivered at doorstep?” Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said today.
Calling the scheme a scam, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said, “Kejriwal has hidden a provision. Delhi agencies will pick and give processed foodgrain and levy extra charges. Kejriwal did not speak on how much extra charge he wanted from the poor.”
Mr Kejriwal’s deputy Manish Sisodia accused the Centre of discrimination. “The Centre does not talk about how BJP-ruled Haryana is charging Rs 3 per kg for milling charges… It seems they want the ration mafia to thrive.”
Ration dealers are opposing the scheme as well, saying it will affect the livelihood of around 10,000 people.
“Many of these people don’t have any professional skill. We are glad that Centre stopped this policy from being implemented,” Saurabh Gupta, the secretary of Delhi Sarkari Ration Dealers Sangh, told NDTV.
Activists said there is a lack of clarity on the ground-level difficulties.
Anjali Bhardwaj, Food rights activist and member of Delhi Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyan said a lot of beneficiaries are slum dwellers who are often at work all day.
“How will their ration get delivered? The other question is of quality and quantity. If someone entitled to receive 30 kg receives only 20 kg, what is the grievance redressal system? If food grains are rotten, what is the system to return it? Currently they can decline to take it at the shop,” she added.
No public consultations were held before the initiative was proposed and there has been a lack of transparency even about its basic details, Ms Bhardwaj said.
Her organisation has filed three RTIs and even though the scheme’s launch was planned in March, till February, the Delhi government could not provide details about price and quantity of grains, and details of the agency given the contract for delivery.
She added that no pilot drive was done for the scheme and the State Food Commission — meant to address corruption complaints and other grievances — is yet to be formed.