New Delhi: The Modi government Friday wrote to the Kejriwal government in Delhi, prohibiting it from rolling out its doorstep rations delivery scheme, ‘Mukhya Mantri Ghar Ghar Ration Yojana’.
In its letter, the central government has said that its rations allocations under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) cannot be used to launch a “state scheme” under a different name.
The letter, accessed by ThePrint, was written to Delhi Food and Civil Supplies Secretary Padmini Singla by S. Jagannathan, the Joint Secretary for the Department of Food and Public Distribution.
The Delhi rations delivery scheme was scheduled for rollout on 25 March. Under the scheme, the Kejriwal government had promised doorstep delivery of packaged rations — wheat flour, sugar, rice etc — to beneficiaries.
Under the NFSA, beneficiaries get subsidised wheat, rice and coarse grains from designated fair price shops.
The Kejriwal government scheme was supposed to spare beneficiaries the chore of visiting fair price shops and getting wheat processed. It would have required beneficiaries to pay a processing-conversion charge along with the cost of subsidised grain.
The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which leads the government, lashed out at the central government on Twitter in the wake of the letter, accusing it of supporting the rations mafia.
Centre stops Doorstep Delivery of Ration Scheme!
Kejriwal Govt's Mukhya Mantri Ghar Ghar Ration Yojana was scheduled to be launched on 25th March '21.
Why is Modi Govt against ending Ration Mafia?
— AAP (@AamAadmiParty) March 19, 2021
A Delhi government spokesperson, speaking to ThePrint on the condition of anonymity, dismissed the letter as an effort by the central government to target “successful models of running a government”.
Whose scheme is it?
In the letter, the central government has cited the National Food Security Act to say that subsidised foodgrain allocated under the law cannot be used for any state-specific scheme under a different name. Any changes in the Act, it added, can only be done through parliamentary procedures.
“While states may like to enhance entitled foodgrain distribution by including additional entitlements and increased subsidy, the nomenclature from NFSA to any other state scheme may be misinterpreted by beneficiaries as state benefits and may give rise to confusion regarding their rights under the Act,” the letter states.
“The new scheme name of NFSA foodgrain by Delhi government is not permissible but the department will have no objection if a separate scheme is introduced by the state government (sic) without mixing elements of NFSA foodgrains,” it adds.
Speaking to ThePrint, a senior official in the Food and Public Distribution Department, under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, said states/Union Territories “are free to have their own schemes over and above the NFSA scheme as many states did during lockdown last year”.
“However, for that, they have to procure the foodgrain under the Open Market Sale Scheme carried out by the ministry,” added the officer, not wanting to be named.
Under the Open Market Sale Scheme (Domestic), the Food Corporation of India sells surplus stocks of wheat and rice from time to time at pre-determined prices through e-auction. This is meant to enhance the supply of foodgrains, especially wheat, during lean seasons and thereby moderate prices in the open market, especially in deficit regions.
“One state cannot just change the basic provisions of the scheme — like in this case — by processing wheat grain as packaged wheat flour and adding packaged sugar with the foodgrain provided under the NFSA and then take the credit for it,” the officer said.
“The whole PDS (public distribution system) consists of some particular uniform features like amount and type of subsidised ration for given categories of specific households. If states would start to tweak it spontaneously, the measurable tools of monitoring benefits across the country will collapse and, in turn, impair the procurement process too.”
Sources said Delhi’s food and civil supplies minister is expected to hold a press conference on the matter Friday evening or Saturday morning.
The Delhi government spokesperson quoted above sought to dismiss these claims. “The Centre is looking at all possible ways to target the Delhi government since they are not able to bear these successful models of running a government.”
Delhi currently has 17 lakh PDS beneficiaries.
The Mukhya Mantri Ghar Ghar Ration Yojana was approved by the Delhi cabinet on 21 July last year. It was notified on 20 February this year, and was being monitored by the Delhi government’s Food and Civil Supplies Department.
In the Delhi Economic Survey, released in the first week of March, Deputy Chief Minister and Finance Minister Manish Sisodia said the scheme keeps in view “comfort of the beneficiaries in terms of saving in man-hours otherwise lost for getting through various FPSs (fair price shops), saving in cost of processed foodgrains… and bringing transparency in the PDS system”.
The scheme was to initially involve 100 households in Seemapuri and gradually expand across all eligible households in Delhi.
Edited by Sunanda Ranjan