Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh on Tuesday urged the government not to deny the poor and vulnerable food grains even if they do not have a ration card. In a letter to Food and Public Distribution Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, Ramesh said a discriminatory approach in implementing the Food Security Act should not be adopted.
He urged the minister not to deny food grains against non-production of ration cards to anyone during the period of the lockdown. He also called upon Paswan to exempt the requirement of Aadhaar-based Biometric Authentication for the release of food grains during the period of the lockdown.
Ramesh’s plea to the minister comes after the Supreme Court did not entertain his plea seeking directions to the Centre and states to ensure universal coverage of food security during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A bench of Justices Ashok Bhushan, Sanjay Kishan Kaul and BR Gavai, which took up the matter through video conferencing, allowed the petition to be withdrawn and asked him to make a detailed representation to the Centre.
Ramesh said as the nation grapples with these challenging times, the government must ensure that “we do not lose sight of issues that demand immediate attention and intervention”.
He raised the issues of food security and food distribution amongst the poor and disadvantaged, which he said, must be addressed with the utmost priority by the central government.
“Over the last several weeks of the nation-wide lockdown and subsequent extensions of the same, numerous reports are coming in from across the country regarding inadequate food stocks and wide variances in distribution of the same amongst beneficiaries,” Ramesh said.
The Congress leader also sought that data on the number of active public distribution system (PDS) outlets, and the supply of grain in these PDS outlets in the months of January 2020 (base month) and April 2020 (lockdown month) be taken in order to identify gaps and address them.
“This was not an adversarial petition but instead an attempt to help the government identify an area where more data can assist in better policy formulation. I hope you consider this representation in the same spirit,” he said in his letter to Paswan.
The Congress on Wednesday questioned the Central government over its lockdown strategy and the criteria it adopted to judge its duration imposed to curb Coronavirus.
The opposition also accused it of non-cooperation in dealing with the pandemic, taking decisions arbitrarily without consulting them, and not providing them funds.
The Chief Ministers of Congress-ruled states were deliberating on the extended lockdown situation with interim President Sonia Gandhi. At the meeting, held via video conferencing, Sonia Gandhi questioned the exit strategy of the Centre post May 17 when lockdown 3.0 ends.