The COVID-19 pandemic has drawn the national capital's vulnerable to the brink. Many non-ration cardholders during a virtual public hearing held by a Delhi-based NGO-working for their welfare, complained that they never received free food grains from the government over the last few months, which is adding on to their miseries.
Yashoda, who delivered her baby during the lockdown talked about the difficulties she and her daily wager husband had to face during the lockdown. She admitted that before the lockdown was imposed, her husband used to earn Rs 15,000-20,000 per month.
"Today, our debt has mounted to Rs 50,000. We do not have a ration card and got food grains only in April and May when the government-held camps for non-ration cardholders. We cannot even return to our village as we do not own any land. What will we do there?" she said.
The Delhi-based NGO, Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyan, which has stood up for non-PDS cardholders by filing public interest litigation (PIL) in the Delhi High Court demanding the resumption of food grain distribution conducted a virtual public hearing on hunger and malnutrition on Monday. The organisation was shocked to know about the conditions of the vulnerable people in Delhi amidst the pandemic.
Around 54 lakh e-coupons were issued by the Delhi government in the month of April and May for the non-ration cardholders, out of which 30 lakh people were given 4 kg wheat and 1 kg rice each.
The city comprises of 71.9 lakh PDS beneficiaries, connected to 17.54 lakh ration card holders, reported The Indian Express.
Rani, a resident of Jagdamba camp in South Delhi's Sheikh Sarai said, "My husband and son are dead. I stay with my daughter-in-law and grandchildren. My 13-year-old grandson has been forced to take up the job of plying a garbage cart… Before the lockdown, his mother and I managed to earn some money, but we are jobless now."
There were many other stories of people who were hit by the lockdown. One of them was Chanchal who worked as a domestic helper and the lockdown has hit her earnings adversely as one of her two employers discontinued her services, "Now I earn Rs 4,000 per month, which goes in paying the rent. My husband is a daily wager. And we do not own ration cards." she said.
An elderly woman named Usha whose plight was highlighted by the Shahari Mahila Kamgar Union said she is dependent on neighbours for survival, "I left my husband, an alcoholic, 23 years ago. My son also stays separately… During the lockdown, my elder daughter sent me ration. As I don't have a ration card, I don't even get wheat so I can at least have chapatis with salt," she said.
Many also communicated their problems in getting a ration card done, as the landlords were denying to certify their addresses.
Representing Delhi government, DUSIB chief engineer S K Mahajan, said that he will convey the grievances to Food Commissioner G S Meena.
"As for the homeless, we will soon provide breakfast at night shelters, where occupants already get cooked meals twice a day," he said.