NEW DELHI: While the Delhi government has been at loggerheads with the Centre over ‘doorstep delivery of ration’, the scheme does not find any mention in its last two budgets.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who has been knocking the Centre’s door to get nod for the scheme, has on many occasions stated that the initiative is close to his heart.
Interestingly, the scheme which is so important for the chief minister and the state government doesn’t find any mention in the 2021-2022 budget.
This means that there has been no budgetary allocation for its implementation.
Delhi government has estimated Rs 677 crore as the cost, but no budgetary allocation has been made for the scheme, according to budget documents.
“Any scheme that is to be implemented by the government should be mentioned in the budget to draw the expenses. If it is not mentioned, the scheme can’t incur expenditure directly from the government exchequer,” informed a government official who didn’t want to be named.
In July last year, after giving cabinet approval for the scheme, Kejriwal had recollected his earlier days in politics and said how the NGO Parivartan, which was run by him and his deputy Manish Sisodia, fought for slum dwellers.
“We used to struggle for people to get their ration. There was a huge mafia and we were attacked several times for fighting for people,” Kejriwal said at the time.
Recently, Kejriwal wrote to Prime Minister Modi requesting him to approve the scheme for the sake of “national interest”.
However, as per the findings of this newspaper, not even a single word about this scheme is mentioned in this year’s ‘Deshbhakti’ budget presented in March.
Similarly, the scheme which was in the works since 2018, does not find any mention in the previous fiscal’s budget as well.
The Delhi Sarkari Ration Dealers Sangh, which has filed a writ petition in court, stated that the scheme is an attempt to formulate a “parallel privately owned” Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), which is completely against the National Food Security Act 2013 and the rules framed under the Public Distribution Control Order, 2001.
The objective of Kejriwal’s scheme is to pack wheat flour, rice and sugar and deliver them to beneficiaries.
For this, three separate tenders have been floated till now and 16 private agencies have been selected.
Divided in to two separate stages, the scheme involves empanelment of private agencies to deliver the package at the doorstep of beneficiary with a conversion charge of Rs 2 per kg of wheat.
Delhi government has given the job of implementation of the scheme to Delhi State Civil Supply Corporation, with an estimated cost of Rs 677 crore.
According to the petitioners, the NFS Act and the PDCO rules do not permit any conversion of the food grains into any other item. In the instant case wheat can’t be converted into ‘atta’ (flour) and a third party can’t be intervened in the PDS process.
“The scheme is detrimental to the PDS. The NFS Act allows reforms in the PDS but without violating the basic rules. The scheme has not been mentioned in the past two budgets. If taxpayer’s money is being used then why is it not mentioned in the budget?” said Visheshwar Shrivastav, a lawyer appearing on behalf of the FPS union.