2 Sep : The government on Thursday decided to release an additional 2.5 million tonnes of foodgrains to states for distribution among the poor, following a warning from the Supreme Court over rotting foodgrains.
But the foodgrains would be distributed at rates prescribed for Below Poverty Line (BPL) families and not free.
“The government is considering an overhaul of PDS including upgrading the number of eligible BPL families. This is expected to increase the number of BPL families eligible for assistance and corresponding increase in allocation by central government.”
“As an interim ad-hoc measure, pending a final decision on the issue, the government is releasing an additional quantity of 2.5 million tonnes of wheat and rice to the states at a BPL price for next six months (rpt) six months,” Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said after a meeting of the Empowered Group of Ministers.
The Supreme Court had on 31st August taken strong exception to the government not complying with its earlier order on distributing foodgrains lying idle in godowns to the poor.
Currently, there are 6.52 crore families registered under the BPL category and they are each eligible for 35 kg of food grains a month.
Rice is distributed to BPL families at Rs 5.65 a kg, while wheat is allotted at Rs 4.15 a kg.
After the proposed overhaul, the number of BPL families is expected to increase to 8.1 crore.
Reacting to inaction by the government to put the foodgrain to use before they rot, a Bench of Justices Dalveer Bhandari and Deepak Verma had on 31st August said “It was not a suggestion. It is there in our order. It is part of our order. You tell the Minister about it.”
“Give it to the hungry poor instead of it (grains) going down the drain,” the bench said in an order that followed reports of food wastage.
The EGOM meeting chaired by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee followed the court’s censure.
Pawar had said in Parliament on 31st August that the government will honour the decision of the Supreme Court’s order of 12th August.
The Food Corporation of India, which is responsible for warehousing foodgrains, in a response to a Right to Information query admitted to wastage of over 1.3 million tonnes of foodgrain in various warehouses over the past decade.
A report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India for 2009 faulted Punjab for losing a high quantity of foodgrain in storage.