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Center object on Delhi government’s doorstep ration delivery scheme: Scheme on hold, a latest breaking point.

Two objections raised by the Union ministry use of the term “mukhyamantri (chief minister)” for a scheme involving distribution of food grains allocated under the NFSA; and any change in delivery mechanism can only be done through a Parliamentairy amendment.

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In the ongoing clash between the Centre and the Delhi state government, the State government’s doorstep delivery of the ration scheme has become the latest breaking point. The Union ministry of food and public distribution raised objections to several aspects of the scheme that was due to be launched on March 25, Under the scheme, the State government had planned to provide packaged wheat flour, rice, and sugar at the doorstep of beneficiaries of the ration system.

The Union ministry has principally raised two objections, In a letter to the Delhi administration— the use of the term ‘mukhyamantri (chief minister)’ for a scheme involving the distribution of food grains allocated under the National Food Security Act (NFSA); and any change in the delivery mechanism in the NFSA can only be done through a Parliament amendment.

‘Upon examination of the said notification, it is clarified that the subsidized food grains being allocated by this department for distribution under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) cannot be used for the operationalization of any state-specific/another scheme under a different nomenclature other than NFSA, as the same is not permissible under the Act.

Further any changes/amendments in the provisions of the Act, including nomenclatures used for distribution of NFSA foodgrains can only be done through the parliamentary procedures,’ said the letter by S Jagannathan, joint secretary in the ministry of food and public distribution.

The ministry further said any change in the nomenclature may give rise to confusion among the people. ‘It is also highlighted that while states may like to enhance the distribution of subsidized foodgrains, including additional entitlements, more subsidy, etc. the nomenclature from NFSA to any local state scheme name may be misinterpreted by the beneficiaries as state benefit and may give rise to confusion regarding their rights under the Act,’ the letter said.

Delhi government is “free to launch’ the scheme ‘without mixing the elements of the NFSA food grains’ the letter added.

The Delhi government confirmed the Centre’s decision in a statement on Friday, NDTV reported. “Centre said that they provide ration to states under the National Food Security Act so no changes should be made to it,” the statement said

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The AamAadmi Party (AAP) said the move by the Union government was ‘anti-people, and stressed that the Centre was aware of all modalities of the scheme. ‘I would like to appeal to the central government to not interfere in matters related to governance. They should withdraw such anti-people directions and let the Delhi government launch the ‘Mukhyamantrigharghar ration yojana’. The Delhi government has held several meetings with the central government on this matter. They were aware of all the modalities. It could have put an end to corruption and leakages. Now, they not only have a problem with just the name of the scheme but also the modalities. They decided to send this letter less than a week before the launch of the scheme.’

On Twitter, AamAadmi Partyaccused the Centre of siding with the “ration mafia”.

 

 

There are around 7.2 million ration beneficiaries in Delhi, according to government data.  A network of 2,000-odd fair price shops currently manages the distribution of ration. One of the major poll promises by the AAP in the run-up to the 2020 assembly polls was the doorstep delivery scheme. The Delhi government already offers nearly 100 services across departments which the people can avail of by calling a helpline number and paying a processing fee of ₹50.

Responding to the AAP’s allegations, the BJP said that the Centre has not stopped the scheme but only pointed out issues related to provisions under NFSA. ‘The AAP is trying to mislead the people. Under NSFA, no state government can use the foodgrains provided by the Centre for a populist state-specific scheme. The people of Delhi know how the AAP government failed to properly distribute food grains even during the lockdown. Their attempt to use food grains provided by the Centre for gaining political mileage is condemnable,’ the Delhi BJP said in a statement.

On February 20, The Delhi government cited Section 12 and Section 24 of NFSA in the gazette notification, relating to the scheme. Both the sections refer to the role of the state governments ensuring the delivery of foodgrains to ration shops – and not exactly the doorstep of beneficiaries.

DJ Narain, the spokesperson for the Union ministry of food and public distribution, said: ‘One state cannot Cuomo change the basic elements of a scheme being implemented nationally. PDS consists of key features like amount and type of subsidized ratio for given categories of specific households. If all the states and UTs start changing the basic rules of PDS implementation, it will become almost impossible to implement it nationwide. Measurable tools of PDS monitoring will also break down. States are free to have their own schemes over and above this.’

The Delhi government has been in a bellicose situation with the Centre over a Bill introduced in the Lok Sabha on Monday which gives overarching powers to the lieutenant governor in the day-to-day administration and also limits powers of the assembly to constitute inquiry committees.

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