ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Spatialising Urban Vulnerability Perspectives from COVID-19 Food Relief in Delhi

To address hunger, the Government of Delhi had issued temporary ration e-coupons in the first COVID-19 lockdowns of 2020. This article uses a data set of nearly 17 lakh households that applied for e-coupons to measure and spatialise food insecurity in the city. It does so to measure unmet demand for social protection as well as to draw learnings for the design of urban social protection systems.

In response to the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of India announced a nationwide lockdown on 24 March 2020. The lockdown was seen as a public health intervention, one necessary to curb the spread of the virus. However, as many have argued, it had its own effects and, in particular, affected food security in India’s cities (Lahoti et al 2020; Mishra and Rampal 2020). As lockdowns progressed, a combination of lost income and restricted mobility created large-scale hunger among urban residents. Relief efforts logged innumerable distress calls, hunger helplines were inundated, and the sight of long lines for public and private distribution came from all major cities in the country.1

The state specifically attempted to respond to this food insecurity (Singh 2020). The Government of India, under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY), announced a 50% increase in take-home ration for each individual beneficiary covered under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013. In Delhi, 71 lakh of the city’s 1.68 crore residents were already covered under the targeted public distribution system (T-PDS), which caps enrolment at 40% of the residents for urban areas. With their “ration cards,” as they are colloquially known, they were entitled to dry rations of rice and wheat. The Government of Delhi further extended this entitlement to those without ration cards by announcing a scheme for temporary ration cards, referred to as e-coupons. The Delhi government administered the e-coupon through a mobile and web application, inviting anyone present in the city without a ration card to apply.2 The e-coupon, given per household, would entitle individuals to dry rations as in the PDS system to be collected from temporary ration centres set up at the nearby schools. For both ration card and e-coupon holders, an additional food basket was also distributed, containing pulses, oil, salt, and spices. The first announcement was for 10 lakh e-coupons, arguably the state’s estimation of the additional need they had to cover beyond existing PDS enrolments. Within days, however, in one of the richest urban regions of India, close to 60 lakh people applied.3

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Updated On : 17th Jul, 2022
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