Cash for food: is Rs 600 enough for a family of five in Delhi?

CM Sheila Dikshit’s claim fails the market test; draws flak for being a ploy to win the 2013 elections

jasleen

Jasleen Kaur | December 17, 2012


Even after getting the cash transfer, Shyam Lal (living in west Delhi) will have to spend around Rs 240 from his pocket to provide for his family of four.
Even after getting the cash transfer, Shyam Lal (living in west Delhi) will have to spend around Rs 240 from his pocket to provide for his family of four.

Chief minister Sheila Dikshit’s claim that a family of five can purchase a month’s ration of rice, wheat and sugar for Rs 600 has come under fire. While the main opposition party, the BJP, has accused her of playing to the gallery with an eye on the 2013 elections, food right activists say she doesn’t have any clue about the prevailing market rates or the galloping inflation.

Also read: Sonia unveils cash transfer scheme in Delhi

The criticism comes in the backdrop of her cash-for-food programme, Dilli Annashree Yojana, which was launched on December 15, under which the beneficiaries are to get Rs 600 transferred directly into their Aadhaar-linked bank accounts instead of subsidized food. The scheme is aimed at about 200,000 poor families who don’t have BPL cards and therefore, don’t get subsidized food through the PDS.

Though Dikshit has explained that her government arrived at the amount (Rs 600) by calculating the prevailing market price, it is clearly not so. Governance Now tried to do a reality check and found that this amount is far less than the required. In fact, a family will have to pay Rs 940 for the same amount of food grains (minus kerosene, which has been kept out of the scheme at present) that is given to the BPL card holders through the PDS.

Her government could well have given Rs 340 more but, apparently, it had to fit a larger number of families (200,000) ahead of the elections, from an allocation of Rs 150 crore earmarked in the budget. It may be a matter of academic interest to outsiders if Rs 600 is indeed enough, but for her the electoral gain that a direct cash transfer of Rs 600 would bring far outweighs such considerations. After all, these families are not even getting PDS food grains because they don’t have BPL cards. Besides, since the scheme is being implemented from April 2012, each beneficiary will get a windfall of Rs 4,800 as the first installment. For these families it matters little if Rs 600 is enough or not.

To check out the market rate, Governance Now first visited a BPL family to find how much subsidized food he is getting and then, checked out at the nearest kirana store for the market value. The details of this exercise go like this:

Shyam Lal, 59, lives with his family of four in a one-room rented house in Tihar village, West Delhi. He has a BPL card and buys ration regularly from a nearby PDS shop. His family is entitled to 25 kg of wheat at Rs 5 per kg; 10 kg of rice at Rs 6.15 per kg and 6 kg of sugar Rs 13.80 per kg.

Lal rarely gets the full ration. “I get just 20 kg of wheat and most of the time just 4-5 kg of sugar. Last month I did not get sugar at all,” he adds. This costs him around Rs 245 (20kg of wheat, 10kg of rice and six kg sugar at PDS rates). This is not enough to run for a month and so, he buys additional 7-8 kg of wheat and 1-2 kg of rice from the local store every month. This costs him around Rs 180 (seven kg of wheat and a kg of sugar at market price).

Apart from that, Lal also spends Rs 100 on grounding of wheat grains to get flour (at the rate of Rs 5 a kg). “I have to go to the ration shop twice or thrice a month and each time I spend Rs 40 on rickshaw,” he adds. So, the entire cost comes around Rs 600. (He is spending Rs 180 + Rs 100 + Rs 80 extra from his pocket = Rs 360. Plus Rs 245 that he spends on his purchase at the PDS store.)

This is the amount the Delhi government has fixed for its Annashree Yojana.

If he were to buy the entire stuff from market, he will be spending much more.

The wheat flour, of the same quality, costs Rs 20 per kg i.e Rs 500 for 25 kg. The sugar costs Rs 40 per kg, that means to buy 6 kg sugar Shyam Lal will have to spend Rs 240. If he’ll buy the same quality of rice from outside, he would have to spend Rs 20 per kg i.e Rs 200 for 10 kg. The total cost of the entire ration would be Rs 940, which is Rs 340 more than what has been fixed by the Delhi government.

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