The Centre has suggested the Delhi government to implement the doorstep ration delivery scheme on a pilot basis as there is no clarity on many fronts, including rates at which wheat flour and packaged foodgrains will be distributed and if beneficiaries’ consent was taken or not. Under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), foodgrains are distributed across India at highly subsidised rates of Rs 3/kg (rice), Rs 2/kg (wheat) and Rs 1/kg (coarse grains) via Public Distribution System (PDS), also called ration shops. However, the Delhi government’s proposed scheme involves the distribution of packaged commodities like wheat flour instead of wheat and rice.
In a letter dated June 22 written to the Delhi government, the Union Food Ministry pointed out several challenges and concerns in the proposed home delivery scheme. The ministry said the proposed scheme “does not meet the statutory and functional requirement of the NFSA and therefore, the proposal made by GNCTD (The Government of National Capital Territory) can’t be accepted”. However, in the letter, the ministry suggested the state government to implement the proposed scheme on a pilot basis. “There is no clarity, whether the scheme is being started as a pilot in selected areas, or being rolled out in entire Delhi in one go. It is suggested to first start on a pilot basis.” Highlighting several challenges in the scheme, the ministry said there is no clarity on the contracting tenure of the delivery partner as it will have a direct impact on the cost and continuity of food security of beneficiaries. Pointing out the lack of clarity on rates at which ration will be home delivered to beneficiaries, the ministry said “It is highlighted that, as per NFSA rules, wheat flour can only be distributed and at a higher issue price after taking proper consent from the NFSA beneficiaries”.
It is not clear whether the consent of NFSA beneficiaries has been obtained by the state government on this aspect or not, it added. It is also not clear that the packaged wheat flour and rice that involves milling, processing and additional transportation and delivery cost — will be home delivered to beneficiaries at the existing subsidised rates or at higher rates. There is no clarity whether the beneficiaries will be allowed to opt-out from the home delivery scheme anytime during the year if they no longer wish to stay dependent on the scheme and forced to incur the higher monthly cost and may want to shift to regular NFSA grains, it added. Further, the ministry said there is no clarity on how the state government will maintain the addresses of beneficiaries in the system to ensure uninterrupted home delivery of packaged items every month, even in case of a change of address of the beneficiaries. There is also no clarity on how the Delhi government will integrate the home delivery scheme with the Centre’s ration card portability feature and supply rations to migrants most of them as tenants keep changing their temporary accommodation.
It is not clear how the state government plans to ensure supply of monthly ration to numerous street dwellers, rag-pickers, migratory labourers, construction workers, rickshaw pullers, auto drivers — who do not have a permanent address in Delhi, it said. Against this backdrop, the ministry asked again the Delhi government to take necessary steps to fulfil the pending obligation of the NFSA under which it is required to deliver foodgrains via electronic Point of Sale (ePoS) machines to the poor beneficiaries. The Delhi government planned to launch the scheme for the doorstep delivery of ration in June, but it did not get approval from the lieutenant governor.