PIL raises issue of FCI not providing sufficient quantity of foodgrains to destitute, underprivileged people

The Rajasthan High Court has asked if the State government had made any additional demand for release of food aid from the Centre during the COVID-19 pandemic, while enquiring about the present status of beneficiaries under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) and the process for revision of their lists.

The court’s query came during the hearing on a public interest litigation petition raising the issue of the Food Corporation of India (FCI) not providing sufficient quantity of foodgrains to the destitute and underprivileged people during the pandemic. Two law students, who filed the PIL plea, said the number of beneficiaries had increased exponentially after the data collection in 2013.

Affidavit sought

A Division Bench headed by Chief Justice Indrajit Mahanty directed the State government, through the Chief Secretary, to be impleaded as a respondent in the case in view of its role in the matter. Additional Advocate General Rajesh Maharshi was asked to file an affidavit indicating the status of NFSA beneficiaries and the manner in which the State was proceeding to revise their lists.

Petitioners Himakshi Alaria and Harsh Kumar pointed out that the migrant labourers, daily wage earners, people excluded from the purview of social security pensions and those not covered in the NFSA were important contributors to the change of demography in the State. None of them was getting any food assistance from the FCI, according to the writ petition.

While the food stocks being disbursed by the FCI in Rajasthan amounted to 2.23 metric tonnes for a total of 4.46 crore beneficiaries, calculated on the basis of the 2011 Census and data collection in 2013, the State government has collected the data depicting the number of NFSA beneficiaries to be 5 crore. “This clearly establishes a shortage for 54 lakh beneficiaries,” the petition stated.

The Bench had in June this year asked the National Disaster Management Authority and the FCI to extend the maximum benefit to the poor and needy people without waiting for further directions from the court. Ms. Alaria said an analysis of reports had suggested that about 10 persons had died of starvation in the State.

The matter will come up for hearing again in the court on November 2. The petitioners have sought directions to the government authorities to provide an extra 30,000 metric tonnes of foodgrains to the State and get an explanation from them about fluctuations in the data of the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana and differences in the quantity of foodgrains shown and delivered.

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