‘If pizza delivery allowed, why not ration’, asks Kejriwal, alleges Centre stalled Delhi scheme

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New Delhi: The Arvind Kejriwal-led government said Sunday that the union government has stalled the Delhi government’s plan to launch doorstep delivery of rations in the national capital from the coming week, resulting in yet another power tussle between the Aam Aadmi Padmi Party (AAP) and the Centre. While the AAP government has accused the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi of having “rejected” the file for implementation of the scheme, the latter said it only ”advised” for it to follow the constitutional scheme of things.

This is the second time this year that the scheme has been stalled owing to differences between the two governments.

Addressing a digital presser Sunday morning, the Delhi chief minister accused the Centre of taking the step under the influence of ration mafia. “Just two days before the Doorstep Delivery of Ration scheme’s implementation in Delhi, the central government has stopped it. If pizza delivery can be allowed amid the Covid pandemic, then why not ration,” questioned Kejriwal. The CM further said that the union government was playing politics instead of helping states deal with the pandemic. He also noted that ration shops have the potential to become Covid hotspots.

“We took approval (from the Centre) not just once, but five times. Legally, we don’t need permission, but we did so out of courtesy,” he added.

In a statement released earlier Saturday, the Delhi government said that “… LG (Lieutenant Governor) has rejected the file for implementation of Doorstep Delivery of Ration citing two reasons – centre is yet to approve the scheme, and an ongoing court case. No approval for launching such a scheme is required as per existing law”.

Meanwhile, the LG’s office in an official statement claimed that the file pertaining to the notification on home delivery of processed and packaged ration under targeted public distribution system (TPDS) was “returned for reconsideration to the CM by the LG”. It further stated that “It has been advised again like earlier on 20 March, 2018 that since the proposal seeks to change the method of distribution, it would mandatorily require the prior approval of the Government of India as per Section 12 (2) (h) of the National Food Security Act 2013”.

The Centre too in a statement has denied allegations made by the Delhi government and said it only advised it to distribute the food grains without tampering with the system of the National Food Security Act (NFSA).

Also read: Many lawyers have left Delhi, some seeking aid and queuing up for ration as Covid hits work

Union ministry refutes allegations, says will provide food grains

In a statement released by the ministry of consumer affairs, food, and public distribution in response to the allegation by the Delhi government, it pointed out that the central government had not asked Delhi Government to not distribute the ration, but only pointed out that it can’t obtain food grains under the NFSA – which is a central scheme – and repackage it and use it for this. Instead, it should buy the required food grain under the open market sale scheme (OMSS), which provides wheat and rice at a subsidised rate for various schemes run by states, and use it for it’s doorstep delivery programme. The ministry stressed that it will provide food grains according to the notified rates for this.

The statement questioned why the Delhi government was insisting on disrupting a pan India ration distribution scheme under the NFSA. The statement also asked why would the central government deprive citizens of any welfare scheme and was, in fact, ready to provide ration for the same.

The statement scathingly commentated that the “Government of India treats all the states of the country in a uniform manner under a common national Act. Now the Delhi Government wants to tinker with that nationally administered program at the cost of Delhi consumers by charging the cost of milling etc from them.”

A senior official in the Department of food and public distribution told ThePrint that “Under no circumstances the food grains provided under the National Food Security Act can be used for any state-specific scheme. That too with a different name. Any such change will require a similar provisional change being made in the Act, which can only be done through parliamentary procedures.”

“There is a provision of sale of food grain under OMSS, which provides wheat and rice at a subsidised rate for various schemes run by states, NGOs, and other concerned parties. The Delhi government can procure the food grain from there, if it really wants to help people in the state,” added the official.

With reference to the Delhi government’s doorstep delivery of ration scheme, the official said, “Such arbitrary changes by any state may disrupt the beneficiary monitoring of the scheme, as they are not just changing the name of the scheme to provide the same food grain, but also processing it and repackaging it, further impacting prices of the commodities in domestic markets.”

In the statement, the ministry also alleged that the Electronic Point Of Sale machines or E-Pos machines – a computerised system used to record sales – that have been installed by the Delhi government at over 2,000 fair price shops which distribute ration to beneficiaries, are yet to be integrated to online PDS transaction updating systems, which prevents real time monitoring and update of PDS distribution in Delhi. This in turn undermines transparency and rightful targeting under NFSA and Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Yojana.

The statement added that while the national average of Aadhaar authentication of PDS transactions is almost 80 per cent, it is zero in Delhi. This directly denies lakhs of migrants in Delhi the benefits under one nation one ration card scheme and at the same time encourages diversion of food grains.

Meanwhile, the Kejriwal government has also been at the receiving end of a lot of criticism for not having distributed free ration among people during the second Covid wave, as was promised by the government. The government finally began distribution of free ration for people without ration cards on Saturday. However, the NGO Delhi Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyan said that at many distribution centres ration was over even before people had gathered to receive the food grains.

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)


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