The Congress’ Food Security Program is in limbo in the capital. The scheme, which made its debut amid much fanfare in Delhi in August 2013, appears to be fading away after it failed to work as a ‘game-changer’ for the Congress, and finds no priority in the new government’s scheme of things. Its 32 lakh beneficences in the state have been receiving less than half the quantity of food grains they are entitled to.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi had dedicated much of her time last year in ensuring passage of the Food Security Bill to ensure that the ambitious scheme takes off before assembly elections are held in five states, including in Delhi. No sooner did the Parliament pass the legislation, the then Congress-run Delhi government launched it in the state. Under the scheme, families were to get 5kg foodgrain per family member for Rs 1-3 per kg every month.
The beneficiary families receiving 25 kg foodgrain until October 2013 are now receiving less than half of that quantity. “We have got just 10 kg grains this month,” said Vimla Devi, who lives in west Delhi’s Dwarka area. “The store is shut on most days and when it does, the store keeper tells us that he has not received supplies.”
Another beneficiary, Razia, said: “The sign outside the shop says that it opens from 9 am to 1pm and then from 3pm to 5:30pm. But the shopkeeper doesn’t follow the advertised timings.”
Razia’s neighbour said that the locals keep vigil at all times so that they can get the subsidized food grains.
Of the two stores that dna visited during working hours, one was shut. The owner of Dabas store in Dwarka, Vivek Dabas, said that foodgrain supply for the scheme has reduced substantially. “We get supplies by the 10th of every month and that’s when we open the shop. When there is no stock, the shop is closed,” said Vivek.
The scheme started with 32 lakh beneficiaries in Delhi from September, and was to extend to 73 lakh people eventually. A month after the scheme’s announcement, the election code of conduct came in place, bringing government procedures to a standstill.
“The Delhi government is yet to start new enrollments (for the food security program). The process was to begin soon after the elections, but a decision on the same is yet to be taken by the new AAP government,” said a food and civil supplies department officer on condition of anonymity. “Those who were receiving the benefits in the first phase will continue to do so.”
Food and civil supplies minister Saurabh Bharadwaj refused to say if his government will continue with the scheme. “I am aware about the glitches. But a decision on whether or not the scheme will continue or expanded is yet to be decided. We have not taken any decision so far,” said Bharadwaj
The department officer also pointed out that if the scheme is implemented, the government will have to incentivise shop owners or risk losses. Currently, shop owners get Rs 35 for every quintal of food grain that is distributed, which is viewed as meager. “The Delhi government had proposed to increase this amount to Rs 100 from its own pool of funds to ensure that shop owners do not sell the food grain meant for the scheme in the open market. This proposal has to be approved by the finance department,” said the officer.