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Fresh standoff between Delhi and Centre over doorstep ration scheme

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New Delhi, June 23, 2021 (Agency) A fresh standoff between Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) ruled Delhi government and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led central government erupted with Food and Civil Supplies Department raising various concerns on Delhi government’s proposed door-step ration delivery scheme.

The Centre’s Food and Civil Supplies Department in a letter to the Delhi government has pointed out four issues which need to be followed under the proposed door-step ration delivery scheme in the national capital and also to protect the National Food Security Act (NFSA) in the future as well.

The department in the letter has pointed on challenges observed in contravention of statutory provisions of NFSA, which applies across the country for providing food grains on subsidized rates by the Centre.

The department has pointed out that the proposed scheme (door-step ration) involves distribution of packaged food commodities — wheat flour (atta) instead of wheat and rice, and it will involve milling, processing, packing, additional transportation, etc. “Hence, it will naturally increase the per kg cost of commodities, and will have a direct financial implications on the poor NFSA beneficiaries. Further, it shall be obligatory on the part of the state govt to clearly mention the additional cost of milling (per kg) over and above CIP of wheat.”

The department also pointed out that there is no clarity on how Delhi government will maintain the address of beneficiaries to ensure uninterrupted home delivery of packaged commodities every month even in case of change in address of the beneficiaries.

It further stated that free movement of delivery vehicles may not be possible in narrow streets in residential colonies and the scheme also may not be successful in multistories residential colonies. “Every beneficiary shall expect the vehicle in front of their door. If not, there may be issue of favouritism and nepotism.”

It noted that the Delhi government in its proposal has not clarified on various subjects, for instance, who will be the delivery partner and for how long the contract will be made to deliver subsidised packed food commodities in every home.

“Most importantly, how the GNCTD intend to ensure continuous online monitoring of delivery of food security entitlement, as it will be difficult in a scenario where existing distribution process itself is not yet automated and integrated with the central online system- ‘Annavitaran portal’.

In absence of an institutionalized oversight mechanism this may also give rise to grievances, complaints, and petition in the courts,” the letter to Delhi government read.

The department further noted that the Delhi government has not clarified that how the packaged food to be supplied to street dwellers, rag-pickers, migratory labourers, construction workers, etc who do not have permanent address in Delhi.

“Therefore, in view of observations and concern, it is clarified that proposal of GNCTD does not meet the statutory and financial requirements of the NFSA and therefore, proposal made by GNCTD can’t be accepted,” the department stated in the letter to Delhi government issued on June 22.

Addressing a press conference on Wednesday, Delhi deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia accused the Center of rejecting AAP government’s flagship door-to-door ration scheme. “Distribution of food under NFSA comes under the State and it has the right to distribute food commodities in its own way. Delhi government’s door-step ration scheme is only to provide packed food commodities at home. The Centre has rejected the scheme on baseless arguments.”

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