The Delhi High Court on Monday observed that 'denial of access to food' due to improper distribution of food grains among the poor and marginalized has "further aggravated" the hardship caused due to the ongoing lockdown.
"The distress caused to the residents of the city, by the ongoing lockdown imposed in order to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus, has been further aggravated by the stated denial of access to food grain to the poor, under-privileged and marginalized sections of the populace," a Division Bench of Justice Siddharth Mridul & Talwant Singh observed.
The remarks were made in a PIL filed by Delhi Rozi-Roti Adhika Abhiyan, raising concerns over widespread violations in the implementation of the National Food Security Act, including ration shops being shut during working hours, denial of access to food grain and other key resources and lack of implementation of necessary grievance redressal and accountability mechanisms.
In order to ensure that "no one goes hungry," the bench has directed the Delhi Government to immediately set up a Grievance Helpline Numbers, so as to enable members of the public, who may be aggrieved qua the lack of distribution of the food grains, to seek redressal of their grievances, by contacting the Nodal Officers appointed for the said purpose.
The court has also sought a detailed response from the Government, and has listed the matter for hearing on May 6.
The Delhi government had informed the Court that it was undertaking necessary steps to alleviate their suffering through various measures, stated to include the serving of hot meals twice a day at a large number of specified locations.
Hunger Relief Centres are set up within 200 metres of each residential zone which are feeding around 10 lakh people every day. Moreover, the benefits of the mid-day meal scheme are not just extended to the students but also their parents, the government had submitted.
The submission was opposed by the Petitioner which informed the court that 37% of ration shops in Delhi were found to be shut on working days, and thus there was a pressing need to make the data on the functioning of ration shops and the grievances, public.
In these circumstances, the court ordered the Government to ensure that all the Public Distribution System (PDS) are open and efficiently disbursing ration to beneficiaries, as per the PDS scheme.
Delhi HC Directs Delhi Govt To Monitor Ration Shops And Ensure That Ration Is Being Disbursed To Beneficiaries
"The GNCTD shall also ensure that food grains are distributed to the poor, needy and marginalized non-PDS residents from the PDS, as well as, other distribution centers stated to be set-up by them, for the said purpose," the bench added.
The process of distribution of ration to both the PDS and non-PDS residents has to be "strictly monitored" through Sub Divisional Magistrates, and daily updates on disbursement of ration after each day have to be maintained on their official websites.
Case Details:Case Title: Delhi Rozi-Roti Adhikar Abhiyan v. Union of India & Ors.Case No.: WP No. 2161/2017Bench: Justice Siddharth Mridul & Talwant SinghAppearance: Senior Advocate Sanjay Parikh and Advocate Prasanna S. (for Petitioner); Advocates BS Shukla, Anuj Aggarwal and Zoheb Hussain (for Respondent)
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