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Another showdown between Kejriwal govt, bureaucrats likely over ration scheme

Food and supplies commissioner refers to the law department chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s ambitious proposal to deliver ration at the doorstep.

delhi Updated: Jul 11, 2018 11:21 IST
Sweta Goswami, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Arvind Kejriwal,AAP,Delhi government
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal inspects the Coronation Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) site at Burari, Delhi, on July 10, 2018.(PTI)

Food and supplies commissioner Mohanjeet Singh on Tuesday referred to the law department chief minister Arvind Kejriwal’s ambitious proposal to deliver ration at the doorstep, a move that could lead to another confrontation between Delhi ministers and the bureaucracy.

The move comes days after Kejriwal announced that he had “overruled” all objections raised by lieutenant-governor Anil Baijal and asked officials to expedite implementation of the scheme.

The chief minister’s statement came after the Supreme Court ruled on July 4 that the L-G’s concurrence in every matter was not required by the elected government.

Sources in the government said the commissioner referred the proposal to the law department to get clarity on whether the scheme can be implemented without the Centre’s views in the wake of the SC verdict .

“Para 15 on page 230 of the SC judgment states that if Parliament makes a law in respect of certain subjects falling in the state list or the concurrent list, the executive action of the state must conform to the law made by Parliament,” the source said.

The problem with this proposal is that it falls under the National Food Security Act, 2013, a law made by Parliament, an official on condition of anonymity said.

“The confusion is because the food and supplies department states the scheme falls under Section 12(2) (h) of the NFS Act, while the political executive of the Delhi government claims it is under Section 12(2) (a),” the official said.

The clause followed by the department states that introducing such schemes to targeted beneficiaries should be prescribed by the central government.

But the clause based on which the council of ministers approved the proposal allows doorstep delivery of food grains to targeted public distribution system outlets.

“It is to be found out if the word ‘outlet’ in the clause means a fair price shop or a house of the ration card holder. The cabinet goes by the latter,” another official said.

The ration distribution system in Delhi is highly subsidised for the state government. The Delhi government’s average expenditure on distribution of foodgrains comes to about R10-12 crore annually, majority of which goes in transportation.

On the other hand, the Centre spends about Rs 60-70 crore every month in Delhi on the public distribution system.

Repeated calls and messages to food and supplies minister Imran Hussain for a response went unanswered.

The L-G’s office said it had not made any comments on the scheme, as claimed by Kejriwal after the SC verdict.

“It is reiterated that since the file on this subject was returned in March, 2018, suggesting to seek the approval of the Central Govt. as opined by the Law Department, GNCTD and as required under the Law, the same has not been resubmitted and has been pending with the elected government,” the L-G’s office said.

With this, it is likely that the proposal may even be sent go to the President for reference by the L-G.

First Published: Jul 11, 2018 11:20 IST