गुरुवार, 2 सितंबर 2010

Extra 2.5 million tonnes, not free, but at BPL prices

NEW DELHI: The Centre will release an additional 2.5 million tonnes of grain to states for the poor. It will be sold at BPL prices, and not distributed free as directed by the Supreme Court.

This will be an interim arrangement to be revisited after six months. The Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM), which met here on Thursday evening under the chairmanship of finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, decided to consider an overhaul of PDS scheme, including upgrading the number of eligible BPL families.

Food and consumer affairs minister Sharad Pawar told newspersons after the meeting that the overhaul is expected to increase the number of BPL families eligible for assistance and a corresponding increase in grain allocation by the Centre.

The Supreme Court had, in its hearing held earlier this week, taken the government to task for not complying with its earlier order on distributing grain rotting in the FCI godowns to the poor free of cost.

“It was not a suggestion. It is there in our order. It is part of our order. You tell the minister about it,” a Supreme Court bench comprising Justices Dalveer Bhandari and Deepak Verma told additional Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran on Tuesday. The court was reacting to the government’s refusal to distribute the grain among the poor while it rotted.

According to estimates prepared by the Planning Commission, there are 6.52 crore families registered under BPL category. The Tendulkar committee, however, pegged the figure at 8 crore, which was later accepted by the Yojana Bhawan in keeping with the National Advisory Council’s views on the subject. BPL cardholders are eligible for 35 kg of grain a month. Rice is distributed to BPL families at `5.65 a kg, while wheat is allotted at `4.15 a kg. After the proposed overhaul, the number of BPL families is expected to increase to 8.1 crore.

After dragging his feet over the Supreme Court order delivered on August 12, Mr Pawar fell in line after the court took a tougher line on August 31. He told Parliament later in the day that the government will honour the decision of the Supreme Court.

“Give it to the hungry poor instead of it going down the drain,” a bench of Justices Dalveer Bhandari and Deepak Verma said in an order that followed reports of food wastage.

The Food Corporation of India, which is responsible for warehousing grain, in a response to a RTI query, had admitted to wastage of over 1.3 million tonnes of grain in various warehouses over the past decade.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

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