The Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution has written to the Delhi government’s secretary of Food and Civil Supplies Department seeking compliance with provisions under the National Food Security Act, 2013, by June 30. The letter came a day after Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal re-sent a file to Lt-Governor Anil Baijal regarding door-step delivery of ration, stating that the scheme was in consonance with the National Food Security Act (NFSA). The Union ministry’s letter from DK Gupta, Director of Public Distribution, said that while Delhi has adopted the NFSA from October 2013, compliance with key provisions of the Act is pending.
The letter said the city government is yet to comply with provisions under Section 12 of the Act, the same section that has been quoted by Kejriwal while arguing that doorstep delivery of ration falls within the ambit of the NFSA.
He has further said that two flagship central programmes — e-PoS and Aadhaar seeding — have been incorporated in the Delhi government’s doorstep delivery of ration scheme.
Section 12 of the NFSA states that the Central and state governments shall try to undertake necessary reforms in the targeted public distribution system which includes doorstep delivery of foodgrains to TPDS outlets, i.e., fair price shops, application of information and communication technology tools, including end-to-end computerisation to record transparent recording of transactions at all levels and prevent diversions, leveraging of Aadhaar for unique identification with biometric information of entitled beneficiaries and full transparency of records.
The Centre’s letter further said, “By not operationising ePoS devices at Fair Price Shops for transparent distribution of foodgrains, the government is in violation of section 12 of the Act’." “Reforms under TPDS are mandated to promote transparency and rightful targeting," it further said.
The same letter points out that despite pursuing the matter (12 letters) for three years with the Delhi government, distribution of foodgrains in Delhi is still being done using the old/manual register-based machines. Contrary to the claims made by the chief minister, the Centre has said that this non-compliance is blocking the ‘One Nation One Ration Card’ scheme that could have benefitted migrant labourers living in the national capital.
The letter also alleges non-compliance of Section 28 of the NFSA which makes it mandatory to have periodic social audits, publicise findings and take necessary action. “However, the Delhi government has not put in place any such machinery and no social audits are being conducted," it said.
Gupta further wrote that by not setting up vigilance committees at the FPS level, the city government has failed to comply with section 29 of the NFSA. According to the Public Distribution System (Control) Order, 2001, vigilance committees have to be set up at multiple levels, including state, district, block and fair price shops by the state government. The government has not set up vigilance committees in fair price shops, which is the most important level for monitoring implementation of NFSA at the grassroots level, the letter said.
The Centre also said the Delhi government has failed to comply with Section 38 of the National Food Security Act under which directions were issued to all state governments to maintain data on NFSA beneficiaries falling in the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe categories. “It is very unfortunate that while other state governments have assured that they would do the needful in this regard, the Delhi government merely informed that the data was not available with them," the letter said. Pointing out that Section 38 of NFSA mandates that the Centre may from time to time give directions to the state government as it may consider necessary for effective implementation of the provision of the Act and that state governments have to comply with such directions, it says the government of Delhi seemed to be insensitive to the needs and rights of this vulnerable section of society and ensure that the benefits mandated under the Act are reaching them.