The National Human Right Commission (NHRC) on Wednesday directed the Centre, states, and union territories (UTs) to ensure no beneficiary of Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojna (PMGKAY) should be deprived of the right to food due to biometric authentication problems during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The direction came against a complaint filed by Suhas Chakma, Director, Rights and Risks Analysis Group (RRAG).
There are a total of 30.08 crore beneficiaries under PMGKAY scheme.
"The computerisation of Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), no doubt, is aimed at ensuring food security to the people, especially to the poor and vulnerable sections by eliminating the shortcomings such as leakages and diversion of foodgrains, inclusion and exclusion errors in identification of beneficiaries, etc. But the lack of availability of internet /mobile connectivity to end users who are residing in far flung/remote areas is also to be looked into," stated NHRC in its order.
"What is of paramount interest in these grave pandemic times is to ensure that the beneficiaries of PMGKAY scheme are not deprived of their entitlements," the order added.
Chakma, in his complaint, stated that the Chakma Villagers of Vasei and Damdep godown of the Chakma Autonomous District Council (CADC), Lawngtlai, Mizoram, have been denied or deprived of the right to food under the PMGKAY despite the fact that they have their Aadhaar cards or ration cards.
"It is on account of failure on part of the state authorities to complete the biometric authentication of their Aadhaar cards for lack of internet/mobile internet connectivity in these areas. Even in locations where there is mobile network/internet, connectivity is extremely poor. This ultimately causes enormous problems for the beneficiaries," further read the order.
Chakma also said that as per the procedure established under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), the biometric authentication (fingerprints) of the Aadhaar card or ration card holders with the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) is mandatory. This mandatory requirement, in the prevailing circumstances, exposes beneficiaries and the ration dealers to serious risk of contracting COVID-19 infection.
"The basic concept of food security globally is to ensure that all people, at all times, should get access to the basic food for their active and healthy life and is characterised by availability, access, utilisation, and stability of food and the same comes within ambit of Article 21 of the Constitution of India as the fundamental right to life which also include right to live with human dignity. This right has been well recognised under section 3 of the NFSA," the NHRC order said.
The NHRC also directed Mizoram Chief Secretary to submit action taken report on the issue regarding denial of benefits to the Chakma Villagers of Vasei and CADC's Damdep godown under the scheme within one week.
The NHRC further directed DIG (Investigation), NHRC, to telephonically collect facts from state/district administration, within three days, regarding the allegation concerning deprivation of right to food to the inhabitants of above said villages of the CADC.
( With inputs from ANI )
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