Delhi’s doorstep delivery of ration scheme runs into roadblock

The Centre had in March raised red flags over the name of the scheme and the proposal to use foodgrains allocated under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) in a local scheme.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s office Saturday said Lt Governor Anil Baijal has rejected the proposal to launch the doorstep delivery of ration scheme citing a lack of clearance from the Union government and an ongoing litigation involving the scheme.

In its response, the Union Food & Public Distribution Ministry said the Delhi government is free to procure additional foodgrains for the proposed scheme under notified rates and launch it, instead of “disrupting” the public distribution system under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) under which highly subsidised foodgrains are allotted to the states.

In a statement, Kejriwal’s office claimed that his government was set to launch the scheme across Delhi within a day or two. A senior government official said that Baijal has returned the file to the CM for “reconsideration” as it would mandatorily require the prior approval of the Centre as per Section 12 (2) (h) of the NFSA, adding that a Delhi High Court hearing on a related case is listed for August 20.

Delhi Food Minister Imran Hussain termed Baijal’s decision “politically motivated”.

“No approval for launching such a scheme is required as per existing law. Nevertheless, we have written six letters to the Centre since 2018 apprising them of this scheme at every stage. Moreover, based on the last communication received from the Centre on 19.02.2021, their concern regarding scheme name has also been accepted by the Delhi Cabinet. What further approval is required?” Hussain said.

The Centre had in March raised red flags over the name of the scheme and the proposal to use foodgrains allocated under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) in a local scheme. Later, the Kejriwal cabinet dropped the name “Mukhya Mantri Ghar Ghar Ration Yojna” and said it had addressed “all concerns” raised by the Centre – an assertion that the government reiterated on Saturday.

However, apart from the name, the Centre has also made it clear that subsidised foodgrains allocated under the NFSA cannot be used for a policy drawn up at the local level.

“The Government of India has not asked the Delhi government to not distribute ration the way they want. They can do so under any other scheme. The Centre will provide additional ration for the same as per notified rates. Where is the issue? Why insist on disrupting an existing pan-India scheme which is under the NFSA?” said a spokesperson from the Union Food and Public Distribution Ministry.

The Centre had also questioned one of the components of the proposed scheme which involves collection of “the cost of subsidised foodgrains and a specified amount as milling/conversion charges” from the beneficiaries. The Delhi government has not yet made public the proposed charges.

According to the notification of the proposed scheme, its implementation would be overseen by the Delhi State Civil Supplies Corporation Ltd (DSCSC) and the Delhi Consumer’s Cooperative Wholesale Store Ltd (DCCWS).

Millers and processing units empanelled with the DSCSC will be tasked with lifting foodgrains from Food Corporation of India godowns, grinding the wheat to make wheat flour, cleaning the rice of impurities, packing and sending the material to ration shops.

The DCCWS shall engage agencies to carry out last-mile delivery of ration till the doorstep of beneficiaries, the notification says. “The DHD agency shall notify the beneficiary in advance through SMS. The packed ration shall be handed over to the beneficiary only after his/her successful biometric authentication using the e-POS device,” it adds.

Distribution of ration in Delhi is currently managed by a network of as many as 2,005 fair price shops. Under the NFSA, approximately 17.77 lakh ration card holding families in Delhi are divided into three categories – 15.12 lakh priority households (PR), 1.73 lakh priority state households (PRS), and 68,468 Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) families.

The beneficiaries coming under PR and PRS categories are entitled to 5 kg of foodgrains per month while AAY households receive 25 kg wheat, 10 kg rice and 1 kg sugar.

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