Delhi HC expresses concerns about plight of homeless in Delhi Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyaan case

It directed the Delhi government’s Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) to look into all the concerns and address them in a time-bound manner

Delhi High Court (Photo Courtesy: PTI)
Delhi High Court (Photo Courtesy: PTI)

NH Web Desk

In July, the Delhi Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyaan (DRRAA) had moved an application before the Delhi High Court highlighting the discontinuation of all schemes of food security for those without ration cards. The matter was heard on Monday by a bench comprising of Justice Hima Kohli and Justice S. Prasad.

Taking cognisance of issues raised by the Abhiyaan and those highlighted by the Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLA) based on inspection of homeless shelters and interactions with homeless persons, the Delhi High Court expressed concerns about the plight of the homeless and the condition in shelters. The affidavit by DRRAA and status report by DSLSA highlighted that though large number of people are living on the streets and their condition is extremely vulnerable given the onset of the winter, the occupancy of several Delhi’s homeless shelters remains well below capacity.

In interactions with pavement dwellers it emerged that issues such as lack of provision for storage of belongings, lack of creche or facility for leaving children while women go to work, distance of shelters, lack of cleanliness and security are the key reasons why people are forced to live on the roads.

The HC directed the Delhi government’s Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) to look into all the concerns and address them in a time-bound manner.

Food Security for people without ration cards

DRRAA had highlighted in its petition that due to the pandemic, people were experiencing economic distress and therefore, sought continuation of supply of dry rations to persons without ration cards, especially the vulnerable, poor and marginalised. The e-coupon scheme of the Delhi government under the Mukhya Mantri Corona Sahayata Yojana launched in the beginning of the lockdown was initially to cover only 10 lakh people and was for one-time ration entitlement of 5 kgs grain per person.

Pursuant to the orders of the Delhi High Court dt. April 27, 2020, the cap of 10 lakhs was removed and the scheme was extended for another phase. However, ration was provided under this scheme only for two months for those who applied in the first phase. Since then while the scheme is still open, it only functions as a one time entitlement of 5 kgs of grains per person.

In the hearing, the counsels for DRRAA highlighted the inadequacy of a one time entitlement of 5 kgs in sustaining people in this time of unprecedented economic crisis. Further, the issue was raised that once the government had identified people in need of dry rations, it must not stop the provision of grains after just one month.

The extent of requirement of ration by people not possessing a ration card can be gauged by the fact that Delhi government received applications from 54 lakh people for the e-coupon scheme. These are people who do not have ration cards and are badly affected by the economic crisis as they are mostly daily wagers, slum dwellers, causal workers etc.

The Delhi HC had directed the Delhi government to file a status report regarding continuation of dry rations for such persons. In the hearing it was pointed out that the report by Delhi government stated that it was “continuously providing ration to all those who have registered themselves on the Janta Samwad Ration Portal under Mukhya Mantri Corona Sahayata Yojana” which was contrary to the actual implementation wherein it is being implemented as a one-time entitlement i.e. once a person has got 5 kg ration under this scheme, they cannot apply again.

The HC has directed the Delhi government to file an affidavit clarifying the correct position regarding the scheme as to whether ration is being continuously provided to such persons or only as a one-time entitlement.

In Delhi only 37% of the population is covered under the Public Distribution System and has ration cards, although nearly 70% of the population lives in slum or slum-like conditions. Large number of poor and marginalised persons have been excluded from the ambit of the PDS due to difficulties faced in getting a ration card such as complex application procedures and insistence on furnishing of documents. The problems being faced by people were also highlighted at a public hearing recently held by DRRAA, the report of which was also filed before the Delhi High Court.

DRRAA was represented by senior advocate Sanjay Parikh and Prasanna S. The next hearing is scheduled for January 7, 2020.

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