It was in early 2015 that Anwari Devi, a resident of Jagadamba Camp in Sheikh Sarai, tried to apply for a ration card. Officials at the circle office near her settlement sent her back asking her to first make Aadhar cards for herself, her four children and her mentally challenged husband. When she returned after seven months with all the necessary documents, Devi was told that issuance of new cards was put on hold.
Like Devi, nearly 30,000 poor families are in queue to be enrolled under the National Food Security Act, 2013 as Delhi’s quota of ration card holders has long been full. In fact, the city crossed its threshold of 72.8 lakh and now has a list of over 72.91 people, who are eligible to avail the benefits under the scheme.
“Our software gets locked at the threshold. The remaining 13,775 applicants have been verified and will be granted ration cards when invalid beneficiaries are deleted from the list,” said KR Meena, secretary-cum-commissioner of Food and Supplies (F&S) department.
Apart from those on the waiting list, about 30,000 applications at the 70 circle offices are pending. Officials say there are a number of ration card holders, who are no longer eligible and the usual computerised methods of scrutinising bogus beneficiaries is not effective. The F&S department is planning to conduct a detailed survey from January to March but that too is “subject to availability of manpower” as it has only 184 officials on the field against a sanctioned staff of over 600.
“We have 19.5 lakh card holders in Delhi and the survey is not possible with just 30% of the sanctioned staff available. We have taken up the matter with the minister. Let’s see if we can borrow staff from other departments,” Meena said.
According to Amrita Johri, an activist working under the Delhi Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyan, NFSA in Delhi has been patchily implemented with the needy being excluded. “The homeless, the transgenders and the differently abled are the ones who do not have ration cards because they do not have Aadhar cards or ID proofs mandatory in Delhi, even after the Supreme Court ruled that Aadhar cards was not compulsory,” she said.
Johri said that the Delhi government can allocate funds for the scheme beyond the sanctioned quota financed by the Centre. “There is a lack of will on the part of government. AAP’s election manifesto promised providing dal and oil under the Public Distribution System in the city. More than 10 states provide pulses or oil under PDS. But, Delhi is yet to implement it,” she said.