‘If cobblers, vendors, domestic help are included for food grains distribution, why not disabled’, asks Delhi HC
The Delhi High Court has questioned why disabled people are being excluded from getting subsidised food grains under the food security law when cobblers, street vendors and domestic help are considered eligible. This was said during a hearing by the court into a counter affidavit filed by the central government which contained the categories of persons and households which are eligible for subsidised food grains under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) and related schemes.
“Why is this (disabled) category not added? When you are including cobblers, street vendors and domestic servants, then why not disabled for whom a separate Act has been enacted by Parliament. It is just to help them. You add a category. Why this category has been forgotten?”
This was the question posed by a bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan to the Centre during a hearing into an affidavit it had filed that contained details of persons and households currently eligible for subsidised food grains under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) and similar schemes.
The Centre’s affidavit was in response to a PIL by the NGO National Federation of Blind (NFB). The NGO has sought directions to the Centre and all states and union territories to provide benefits of various food security and poverty alleviation schemes, like Pradhan Mantri Garib Anna Kalyan Yojana to disabled people during the Covid pandemic.
What the NFB petition says
The NFB has contended that under the Persons with Disabilities Act 1995, a 3% reservation was provided for all persons with disabilities in poverty alleviation schemes. This was increased to 5% when the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (RPWD) Act 2016 came into force.
The NFB petition adds that given how economically marginalised people with disabilities are with many in institutions or neglected by families, they are unable to get ration cards. Under the NFSA, the Centre has to ensure states and union territories identify people with disabilities who are eligible for food grains under the various schemes and provide them the same.
Lack of ration card no grounds for denial
The petition has sought a direction to the Centre to “consider the cases of persons with disabilities and visually impaired persons even without ration cards on the basis of their disability certificates and/or Unique Disability ID (UDID) for getting benefit under National Food Security Act” and the Pradhan Mantri Garib Anna Kalyan Yojana.
It has also sought that food grains be provided free of cost to poor disabled people like was done for migrant workers during the pandemic.
The Delhi High Court bench said that if the Centre cannot address this issue, “we will pass orders”. It also said that in every society or civilisation priority must be given to women, children, senior citizens, people with disabilities, people in jails as well as those with intellectual disabilities.
The Centre has sought time to respond to these directions by 29 September when the matter comes up for hearing next.
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