The Delhi High Court on Thursday observed that the grievance helpline numbers for distribution of foodgrains “is a disaster that needs to be addressed immediately by the Delhi Disaster Management Authority”.
A Bench of Justice Hima Kohli and Justice Subramonium Prasad made the remarks after the court made repeated calls to the helpline number 1301, which is manned by the Delhi Disaster Management Authority, but the said number could not be reached at all.
“The said helpline shall be made functional by the end of this day. The respondent/State is cautioned that we propose to personally verify if both the aforesaid helplines are functioning, by making calls on a random basis,” the High Court observed.
The government assured the High Court that the aspect shall be looked into and steps shall be taken to ensure that the figures relating to the number of complaints received on the helplines are put up on the website.
During the hearing, the High Court dialled the food helpline number, 1967, several times and also requested counsel appearing for the parties to do so only to find that none of them were able to connect to the said helpline, except for Additional Solicitor General Sanjay Jain.
Mr. Jain also submitted that the department concerned has issued instructions to all the fair price shops to remain open on all seven days of the week, for distribution of ration to all the beneficiaries.
The High Court was also informed that there are 2,017 fair price shops in Delhi that cater to ration card holders and 588 food distribution centres have been set up for catering to the non-public distribution system (PDS) beneficiaries.
The government also stated that 71 lakh eligible beneficiaries have been identified for being provided foodgrain on a monthly basis under the PDS system.
It also said that fair price shops are dedicated to PDS card-holders whereas non-PDS cardholders are directed to approach the 588 designated distribution centres, specifically set up for serving their needs all over Delhi.
Plea by DRRAA
The High Court’s order came on a petition filed by Delhi Rozi Roti Adhikar Abhiyan, which sought to ensure effective and time-bound redressal of complaints of non-supply of ration and the urgent need for transparency in the distribution of foodgrains through PDS.