Despite government announcements and civil society aid, food security continues to remain a problem for the poor in Delhi. Many continue to starve amid the 21-day lockdown imposed to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Although the Delhi government has announced measures for the supply of food grains to the poor, the lag in implementation comes at a heavy cost – starvation and food insecurity for thousands of Delhi’s residents.
“I have over 200 families lining up outside my house asking for help after I had arranged cooked food for them one day. The jhuggi cluster has residents who are rickshaw-pullers and daily-wage workers who haven’t eaten for the last two to three days.” says Yasmeen. She lives in a cluster close to the Noida-Delhi border. Many living in small clusters in Delhi still await dry rations.
There are over 2,000 ration shops in Delhi and to check whether they functioned, the Delhi Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyaan monitored the distribution of rations during the lockdown. The survey spanned 37 shops located in Munirka, Narela, Vijay Enclave, Adchini, Shahpur Jat, and other areas.
It was found that 12 of the 37 ration shops were closed during working hours. Two shops in Narela were found to be closed on three consecutive days (March 29, 30 and 31). Upon further inquiry, it was found that one of the shops had been shut for a long time. In four shops, which were found to be shut, we were informed that their stocks were over and that they would open when new stock came.
As per a Delhi government order dated March 26, 2020, ration stock of two months i.e. April and May 2020 were to be delivered to all ration shops by March 29. There is no way to ascertain whether all the beneficiaries have indeed been able to get their rations, as neither the proof of distribution (sale register) is available in the public domain nor are the contact details of ration cardholders available, to enable verification by phone. Further, the order does not state that the ration shop may be closed upon sale of all stock.
Speaking to NewsClick, Anjali Bhardwaj of the DRRA said: “Food security needs to be ensured for the poor and the marginalised in Delhi. Cooking facilities need to be ensured, there has to be 7.5 kg of food grains and 1 kg of dal for each family. The role being played by PDS shops is a critical one. This is an ongoing exercise, we are demanding transparency from the government to ensure rations are being provided to the people,” she added.
In 10 of the 37 shops, the monitoring team could not locate any volunteer, representative of the MLA or police personnel. The Delhi government had announced that a civil defence volunteer would be stationed at each shop to monitor food-grain distribution.
Forty percent of Delhi’s population have been issued ration cards under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) (72 lakh people out of the 1.93 crore in Delhi). The Delhi government had announced an enhancement of entitlements to be provided on ration cards. On priority ration cards, the quota of 5 kgs of grain per person was enhanced to 7.5 kgs per person. On Antyodaya (AAY) cards with up to 4 persons listed as beneficiaries, the entitlement was 35 kgs of food-grains and 1 kg sugar. For AAY cards, which have 5 persons listed as beneficiaries, the entitlement of food grains was increased to 8 kgs per person and for cards which have more than 5 persons listed as beneficiaries the entitlement was increased to 7.5 kgs per person. All the ration is to be provided free of cost.
In addition, on March 26, the Central government announced that 5 kgs of food-grains per person and 1 kg dal per family will be provided to 80 crore ration cardholders free of cost for 3 months to provide relief to the poor. This has not reached Delhi’s shops till date.
Read More: COVID-19: 21-Day Lockdown Triggers Hunger Havoc for the Poor