Five days before the launch of the doorstep ration delivery scheme by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, the Centre on Friday asked the Delhi government not to implement it, saying it is 'not permissible' to use subsidised food grain allotted under the national Food Security Act for the ambitious project.
The Aam Aadmi Party sought to know as to why the centre is against the 'ending of ration mafia' and termed the Union government's move just days ahead of the launch of the scheme as 'astounding and rather unfortunate'.
The decision comes against the backdrop of the Union government introducing the GNCTD (Amendment) Bill in the Lok Sabha which seeks to give overarching powers to the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi which revived the tussle between the AAP dispensation and centre.
Kejriwal was scheduled to launch the scheme with doorstep delivery of ration to 100 households in northeast Delhi's Seemapuri on March 25.
In a letter written to the Delhi government on Friday, Joint Secretary in the Union Food Ministry S Jagannathan said the subsidised foodgrains being allocated by the central government for distribution under the NFSA 'cannot be used for the operationalisation of any state specific/other scheme under different name/nomenclature other than NFSA as the same is not permissible under the Act'.
However, the central government will have no objection if the Delhi government comes out with a separate scheme without mixing the elements of the NFSA, it said.
In June 2018, Kejriwal along with his cabinet ministers had staged a sit-in at the LG office, demanding approval of doorstep delivery of ration in the city.
In his Republic Day address this year, Kejriwal had termed the initiative as a revolutionary step in changing the city's public distribution system (PDS).
The modalities of the scheme had also been notified by the Delhi government last month.
In his letter to Delhi food and civil supplies commissioner Padmini Singla, Jagannathan said while states may like to enhance the distribution of subsidised foodgrains, including additional entitlements, more subsidy etc, the nomenclature from NFSA to any local state scheme may be misinterpreted by the beneficiaries as state benefit and may give rise to confusion regarding their rights under the Act.
Under the NFSA, passed by Parliament in 2013, the central government provides foodgrains to states for distribution to 81.35 crore people via the PDS at a highly subsidised rate of Rs 1-3 per kg.
As per the ministry's data, about 41.33 lakh tonnes of foodgrains have been allocated under the NFSA to Delhi government till February of the 2020-21 fiscal for distribution via PDS. Out of which, offtake has been 40.97 lakh tonnes.
In the national capital, there are around 72 lakh beneficiaries of the PDS.
On its part, the AAP said it is deeply saddening that the central government has asked the Delhi government to stop the 'Mukhya Mantri Ghar Ghar Ration Yojana'.
Addressing a press conference, AAP chief spokesperson Saurabh Bhardwaj said the Delhi government has not taken a single penny from the centre to implement the social welfare scheme.
Under the scheme, each eligible beneficiary would have been delivered ration including properly packaged wheat flour and rice, after their biometric verification.
Earlier this week, Kejriwal, his cabinet ministers and AAP MPs and MLAs had staged a protest at Jantar Mantar against the GNCTD (Amendment) Bill.
The chief minister had alleged that the Centre wanted to weaken his government through the bill.
The Bharatiya Janata Party has brought this bill as it is scared of the AAP's reach in other states, Kejriwal had claimed.