The Delhi High Court on Monday said if cobblers, street vendors and domestic help can be included as categories for disbursal of subsidised foodgrains under the food security law, then why not disabled persons.
"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," a bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Prateek Jalan asked the Centre.
The bench said if the government cannot do it, then "we will pass orders".
The observations came after the court perused the counter affidavit filed by the central government which contained the categoriesof persons and households which were eligible for subsidised foodgrains under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) and related schemes.
The affidavit was filed in response to a PIL by an NGO seeking directions to the Centre and all the states and union territories to provide benefits of the various food security and poverty alleviation schemes, like Pradhan Mantri Garib Anna Kalyan Yojana, to persons with disabilities (PWD) during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bench, during the hearing via video conference, further said that in every society or civilization priority ought to be given to women, children, senior citizens, differently abled, people in jail and mentally challenged persons.
Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma sought time to take instructions on the points raised by the court which listed the matter for further hearing on September 29.
The NGO, National Federation of Blind, represented by senior advocate Santosh Kumar Rungta, has contended that PWDs are neglected when reliefs under various food security measures are implemented as most of them do not have ration cards.
It has contended that under the PWD Act of 1995, a three per cent reservation was provided for all disabled persons in poverty alleviation schemes and this was increased to 5 per cent under the RPWD Act of 2016.
Therefore, the government should ensure that at least 5 per cent of the beneficiaries for foodgrain under the schemes like, Antyodaya Anna Yojana and Pradhan Mantri Garib Anna Kalyan Yojana, are PWD, it said.
It has also said that most of the PWDs are in institutions as they are neglected by their families and such institutions do not provide an address proof to their inmates and therefore, they are unable to get ration cards.
The NGO has said that under the NFSA, the Centre has to ensure states and UTs identify the PWD who are eligible for foodgrains under the various schemes and to provide the same to them.
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.
Besides that, it has also sought that foodgrains be provided free of cost to poor PWD as was done for migrant labourers and others during the present pandemic.
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