Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Sunday appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to allow doorstep ration delivery in the national Capital and said that the scheme should be implemented across the country in view of the coronavirus crisis. As part of the scheme, every beneficiary is entitled to receive 4 kg of flour and one kg of rice at their doorstep.
“This [ration delivery scheme] was going to be a revolutionary step but it was stopped two days ahead [of its implementation,” Kejriwal said, asking the prime minister why was it stalled. He said that the scheme was for the country’s benefit.
The fight between the Centre and the Delhi government has come at a time when hundreds of people, especially migrant workers severely hit by the lockdown, are struggling for food. On Saturday, the Delhi government began to distribute ration for people without ration cards. The Delhi Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyan, a network of groups working to provide food to the needy, said many people queued up for hours outside the distribution centers but were turned away and asked to come back on Monday.
Several migrant workers who queued up outside the ration distribution centres said that they could not register for the scheme because the addresses on their Aadhar cards were of their native places, The Indian Express reported. The administration of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi’s school on Idgah Road, one of the 280 schools assigned to distribute rations, told the newspaper that it had to couldn’t put PIN codes from outside the Capital into the Janta Samvad portal, because of which it had to turn some people away.
Meanwhile on Sunday, Kejriwal claimed the poor section of the society has been a target of “ration mafias” for the last 75 years. Kejriwal said that before becoming the chief minister, he had raised his voice against the mafia that resulted in attacks on him and his team seven times.
“If the doorstep ration delivery scheme would have been implemented, the ration mafia would have ended,” Kejriwal said. “But see, how powerful it turned out to be.”
The chief minister dismissed the Centre’s statement that the Delhi government did not seek approval for implementing the scheme. “We took permission from you five times,” he said, adding that the Delhi government does not need any approval from the Centre legally.
“But we did not want any dispute with the central government [over the scheme],” he said. “That’s why we took approval five times.” Kejriwal said that the Delhi government cleared all the objections raised by the Centre, including the name of the scheme that had the term “mukhyamantri [chief minister]” in it.
The chief minister said that even after this, the Union government rejected the scheme. “If pizza, burgers, smartphones and clothes can be delivered at home, then why can’t ration be delivered at the homes of the poor?” Kejriwal asked.
He asked how the Centre can reject the scheme on the contention that ration dealers had approached the High Court on it. Kejriwal said that the ration dealers wanted a stay but the Delhi High Court refused it. “If the High Court did not grant a stay, how did you [the Centre] stay the scheme?”
The chief minister said that the scheme would help many residents of the city who cannot go to get rations or are afraid of contracting the coronavirus infection.
He alleged that the central government was fighting with everyone, including West Bengal, Maharashtra, Delhi and Jharkhand governments, farmers, and the residents of Lakshadweep. “People are distressed that the central government is fighting everyone,” he said. “If we fight like this, how will we tackle Covid-19?”
Kejriwal also said that he was not implementing the scheme for his sake but for the poorer section of the society. “Allow me to implement the scheme and all credit will be yours [Narendra Modi],” the chief minister said. “I will personally tell the world that Modi ji implemented the scheme. This ration is not yours or mine... it belongs to the people of the country.”
On Saturday, the Delhi government had alleged that the Centre has blocked its doorstep ration delivery scheme, calling the move “politically motivated”. The chief minister’s office claimed that Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal returned the file on the delivery programme on June 2, saying that the scheme cannot be implemented. It said that the scheme would have benefitted 72 lakh ration cardholders in the national capital.
However, an unidentified official told PTI that the lieutenant governor has not rejected the scheme as claimed by the Delhi government but sent it back for reconsideration. “It has been advised again, like earlier on March 20, 2018, that since the proposal seeks to change the method of distribution, it would mandatorily require prior approval of Centre as per Section 12 (2) (h) of the National Food Security Act 2013,” said the official.
The Delhi government had cleared the proposal to allow home delivery of ration to cardholders in July last year. It had said that the scheme would allow the delivery of rations to homes, make visits to the shops optional and eliminate corruption.
However, the Centre had flagged concerns, including that the scheme could result in ration cardholders buying grains and other necessities at a higher rate than that fixed under a central law.