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 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, said the number of beneficiaries had increased exponentially after the data collection in 2013.
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 FCI, according to the writ petition.
‘All not covered’
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.