The Legal Aid Society, Campus Law Centre, in view of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the economic hardships caused to the downtrodden sections of society by the nationwide lockdown, took the initiative in the month of April to assist those in need of ration by helping them avail the E-coupons under the scheme instituted by the Government of Delhi for their benefit and subsequently connected them to the nearest food distribution centres.
Objective: The Society aimed to be the link between the Delhi Government and those in need by helping people avail the government provided free ration during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Procedure: A team of dedicated Para Legal Volunteers was formed and their phone numbers were circulated among those in distress through various channels on the ground. The team members received calls from migrant laborers, daily wage workers, riot-affected persons, etc. living in Delhi. After ascertaining their details, the volunteers filled their online forms for E-coupons (which would act as a temporary ration card) and enabled them to collect free ration from the designated food distribution centres. The volunteers also provided the information regarding requirements for the scheme and fielded any other queries they had. Consequently, they followed up with the beneficiaries once their E-coupons were processed and informed them about the process of collecting the ration. In cases of emergency requirement of ration, the volunteers connected them with the Hunger Helplines run by the Delhi Government and also coordinated with the concerned authorities to take care of the food requirements of the underprivileged.
Impact: The initiative bridged the gap between government action and those who were most in need of food by directly connecting with people and addressing their concerns. The Society was able to reach out to 1900+ families (as on 4th June 2020). The volunteers gained first-hand awareness about the situation on the ground and learned how one could be of assistance during such testing times.
Litigation: E-Coupon applications of around 310 families, who our volunteers had assisted, were not approved ever after 30 days from the date of filing. So, representations and reminders were sent to the Chief Minister, Deputy Chief Minister, Minister for Food Supplies, Lt. Governor, Commissioner (Food Supplies) among other authorities. Grievances were also registered on the portals of the government, designated for this purpose. However, the grievances were not addressed.
Hence, the Legal Aid Society approached Tushar Sannu (Advocate, Delhi High Court) for legal assistance. Through one of the applicants, namely, Mrs. Aysha whose E-coupon had been pending since 23rd April, a Writ Petition was filed in the Delhi High Court. (Read the Petition: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1-c9YbAB8ef9-UIClia7LPOjszE3T_NV4/view) The society assisted the Petitioner throughout, from the filing of E-coupon till approaching the Hon’ble High Court.
A day before the petition was taken up in the court, Govt. not only approved the E-Coupon of the Petitioner but also supplied ration at the doorstep. On the date of hearing of the matter, titled ‘Aysha vs. Govt. of NCT & Ors.’ (W.P. (C) 3360 /2020), on 05.06.2020, it was submitted by the counsel for the Petitioner that there are 310 more families who need assistance in a similar manner. The Hon’ble High Court was pleased to issue a Notice and directed the respondents to file a status report within one week on the said cases.