Delhi’s e-coupon system for ration fails, website constantly states ‘server down’

The website through which people who do not have ration cards in Delhi had to apply to become eligible for ration permanently shows ‘Server under heavy load’ message whenever it is accessed

Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal 
Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal

Ashlin Mathew

The website through which people who do not have ration cards in Delhi had to apply to become eligible for ration has crashed. Whenever the website is accessed, it permanently shows the message ‘Server under heavy load! Please check after some time.’ Moreover, most poor people cannot apply online as most do not have smart phones and there are no cyber cafes functioning during the lockdown.

Three days ago, the Delhi government announced that it would start issuing e-coupons to the poor so that they would get ration for free. According to the government, all they had to do was fill a ‘simple’ form online. The form is not so simple either.

Applicants who do not have a ration card have to upload the image of Aadhaar Card, in addition to the images of the Aadhaar cards of all their family members and then they also have to upload a family photo. Once all of this is uploaded, the site is supposed to give a reference number. Daily, after 9 pm, the website is supposed to show the status of the applicant’s e-pass. That has also not been the case.

According to the guidelines released by the Delhi government, people who have applied for ration cards and are awaiting a decision on their applications are eligible, so are the socially and economically disadvantaged persons who would need dry ration. The guidelines end with the point that dry ration would be provided to a maximum of ’10 lakh individuals’.

“There are many people who have been trying to enroll for the last few days, but nothing has happened. In many cases, the server is so slow that it does not even allow the applicant to upload the images of the Aadhaar card. There is a woman who tried three times earlier and four times today itself. The website doesn’t even open anymore,” pointed out Poonam Kaushik, an advocate and social activist working with daily wage labourers.

Mamta has been trying for two days to get a reference number, but has failed. “My family does not have a ration card. I used to work as a beautician, but now all salons have shut. My parents used to work in a nearby steel plant and now they also don’t have jobs. Our ration has run out and for three days I have been checking this website. My mother even went to the distribution centre, but the authorities there are of no help. When we are under a lockdown, how can the government insist on doing everything digitally,” asks Mamta matter-of-factly.

As soon as the person feeds in their mobile number, an OTP is supposed to be sent to the number, but neither is the reference number sent to the mobile number, nor is the status sent. “Shouldn’t the government send us the reference number and status to the mobile numbers. Why aren’t they doing it? There are eight members in my family. I do not have a smart phone, so I used a friend’s phone to upload the details. As it was a long-drawn process, we decided that we would give only details of four persons. I got a reference number but whenever I check the status, it simply says ‘No e-pass with id’. Why am I not given an e-pass for ration? I fulfil all the criteria mentioned,” asserted Akash, who works in the pest-control department of a private company. His mother went to the distribution centre thrice to seek help, but they told her that without the e-pass she wouldn’t be given the ration.

Though the guidelines state that e-coupons would also be given to those who have applied for ration cards but are yet to hear about its status, the system doesn’t accept it. “A family in Haiderpur had applied, but they did not realise that they needed to save the reference number. So now they are finding it difficult to trace their details,” added Kaushik.

“The government should be setting up people in offices or near colonies to help us get our ration. They can take down our details. There are many families who do not have smart phones, so how will they apply? Will they starve?” wondered Akash.

Delhi Rozi Roti Abhiyan has also written to the Delhi Chief Minister about the urgent need to simplify and rationalise the system for delivery of foodgrains to people who don’t have ration cards. “The current system requires those without ration cards to apply for an e-coupon using a website. They need to have the ability to access the internet, have a mobile phone to generate an OTP, upload a photo of their Aadhaar card and a photo of their family, and finally, download the e-coupon. This makes the system inaccessible for the poorest and marginalised who need rations,” pointed out the letter.

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Published: 07 Apr 2020, 6:24 PM