When she heard about the extension of the lockdown on Tuesday, Rabina Khatoon set out to get free ration from a fair price shop, but she could only reach home late Tuesday night as, she alleged, police stopped her despite showing them her ration card and supplies.
Rabina, who lives in Sarai Kale Khan in the national capital, said she was forced to step out of her house and go to the shop in Bhogal area to collect her quota of PDS ration after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced extension of the nationwide lockdown to contain coronavirus.
She alleged that the police, strictly enforcing the lockdown order at an underpass near Nizamuddin Railway Station which connects Sarai Kale Khan, stopped her and did not allow her to go home despite showing her ration card and the supplies she was carrying on her head.
Rabina claimed her pleas to the police to allow her to go home fell on deaf ears and she did not receive any help from the government after calling helpline number 1076 on Tuesday night.
She said that she finally she managed to reach home late at night with help of a good samaritan who convinced police that she was his neighbour.
Like Rabina, several ration card holders are reported to be facing problems in collecting ration from fair price shops, also called Public Distribution System (PDS), especially in areas near COVID-19 hotspot zones, where the police have tightened security. Even though the Centre has allowed one person from a family to go out to buy essential supplies, some of the policemen on the ground seem to be unaware of the exemption.
As per the fresh guidelines issued for enforcing the second phase of lockdown, ration shops are allowed to operate by maintaining strict social distancing without any restriction on their timing of opening and closure. However these guidelines need to be disseminated to the enforcement authorities else the poor would suffer and die of hunger before the disease, said experts.
The other solution to this problem is that local authorities should ensure home delivery of PDS ration which many states are already doing, they added.
To ensure the poor do not go hungry during the lockdown period, the Centre is distributing free five kg rice or wheat per beneficiary and one kg of pulses per householder for next three months under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Anna Yojana (PMGAY).
This quota is over and above the regular entitlement of five kg foodgrain per person under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) being given to over 81 crore beneficiaries in the country.
The central government says there is surplus foodgrains to feed the poor but ensuring it reaches at their doorstep can save the country from people dying of hunger in the current threat of COVID-19 pandemic.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)