After several days of delay, Delhi govt to begin distributing free rations
The Delhi government on Friday told its officers to start distributing fully subsidised rations for May and June to the city’s 7.2 million ration beneficiaries, a programme that has been delayed due to the Covid-19 surge in the Capital, adding to the hardships of thousands of families amid a lockdown that has deprived several of their daily incomes.
The government said in a statement on Friday: “Food and civil supplies minister Imran Hussain today convened a high-level meeting to review the distribution of free ration to all Public Distribution System (PDS) cardholders of Delhi under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) 2013 and under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojna (PMGKAY) for May 2021 and June 2021… During the meeting, the minister directed officers to ensure that ration distribution is carried out in a smooth, convenient and transparent manner.
A senior government official said the distribution of free ration for two months allotted under NFSA is likely to start from Saturday, and the additional ration allotted under PMGKAY is scheduled to be distributed from Monday.
Approximately 1.78 million households in Delhi hold ration cards, which cater to 7.2 million beneficiaries. Rations are distributed through a network of 2,000-odd shops.
Chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on May 4 said the state will give free ration for two months to card holders in the light of the ongoing lockdown. A similar scheme was announced during the lockdown last year as well.
Ration in Delhi is usually distributed in a week-long window between 27th of the previous month and 3rd of the concerned month – which means the distribution of rations for May have been delayed by more than 11 days, which a senior government official attributed to the unprecedented fourth wave of the pandemic.
“The decreasing number of cases and the fall in positivity rate suggest that the situation is slowly getting stable. However, while collecting ration, people will still have to take utmost precautions,” said the official, who asked not to be named.
“We are struggling for food. For the last few days, we have been going to a nearby shelter where meals are distributed for free. But that entails an immense amount of risk in terms of getting infected by the virus. We have two children,” said Ramesh Prajapati, a 45-year-old factory worker in west Delhi’s Mayapuri industrial area, who along with his wife Anita, a domestic worker, have been without any stable income for around three weeks now.
Right to Food campaign member Anjali Bhardwaj said, “Lockdown was imposed in Delhi nearly a month ago, which has resulted in cessation of income earning opportunities for the working poor. They have been struggling to afford two square meals a day for themselves and their children. In such a situation, it is shocking and absolutely unacceptable that the Delhi government has delayed the distribution of ration for the month of May, forcing people to buy grains in the open market.”
Shailendra Kumar, president of Delhi public distribution system welfare association, said “Distribution of ration for May has witnessed immense delay causing hardships to large number of people. Now that ration will finally be distributed, the government has to ensure that all protocols are in place for safety and security of beneficiaries and ration shop owners and managers. Ration shops should be given PPE and safety gears too.”