6 Sep ; Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has gently told the Supreme Court, which recently directed the govt to distribute foodgrains free to the poor, not to get into the “realm of policy formulation”.
How can foodgrains be distributed free to an estimated 37 percent of the population which lives below the poverty line, Singh asserted during an interaction with editors at his residence in New Delhi on Monday.
It was not possible to give free foodgrains to all the poor, he said while answering a question on the order of the apex court which had directed Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar to distribute foodgrains to the poor instead of allowing them to rot.
The Prime Minister said he had not seen the final judgement of the court but he respected the “sentiments” behind the decision that a way should be found to ensure that at a time when foodgrains are rotting the needs of the people should be met.
“I do recognise that food should be available to the people below poverty line at concessional prices. We have not allowed any increase in the issue price of foodgrains to people below poverty line since 2004,” he said.
To the extent possible, the government had taken adequate steps in this direction while noting the apex court’s concern that food should be available to the poor at affordable prices, he said.
At the same time making food available free would destroy incentives to farmers to produce more. If there was no food available there would be nothing to distribute, he said.
The Prime Minister listed the Naxal problem, Kashmir situation and the forthcoming judgement in the Babri Masjid case as some of the top issues that would have a bearing on how India would shape in the years ahead.
About the Naxal problem, he said that it was one of the greatest security challenges to which there was no “quick fix”.
He favoured a two-pronged approach of addressing valid economic and social reasons behind the problem and at the same time enforcing law and order.
With regard to Kashmir, Singh disclosed that he was calling a meeting of Cabinet Committee of Security (CCS) later this week to discuss “threadbare” how to tackle the situation.
“I can’t promise you that I can produce a rabbit out of my hat ….the country must learn to be patient,” he said.
Answering a question about allegations of corruption against some of his ministers which had “sullied” the government’s image, the Prime Minister said that corruption constituted a major challenge for India’s polity. But every opponent cannot be condemned as being corrupt.
He promised action in regard to serious allegations of corruption in the Cabinet.
Singh said that with regard to allocation of Spectrum in which Telecom Minister A Raja is facing allegations “I took adequate precaution and took note of what appeared in the media”.
Chidambaram doing “exceedingly good job”: PM
Union Home Minister P Chidambaram on Monday received full backing of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who complimented him for doing an “exceedingly good job”.
Singh was asked at an interaction with editors on Monday about Chidambaram’s complaint that he had a limited mandate in dealing with the Naxal menace
“All of us have a limited mandate,” the Prime Minister responded, adding that once a policy is laid down it has to be implemented.
Chidambaram, he said, was doing an exceedingly good job and “he has my full confidence and support”.
He complimented the Home Minister for the way in which he had handled a difficult job in the aftermath of Mumbai terror attacks.
CCS to discuss Kashmir threadbare: PM
The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will meet in New Delhi later this week for a “threadbare” discussion on the situation in Kashmir amidst indications that the Centre may initiate new steps to break the impasse.
Even as he disclosed the decision to convene the CCS meeting, Singh told a group of editors, “I cannot promise you that I will produce a rabbit out of my hat….the country must learn to be patient.”
Pointing out that the Kashmir problem has existed for 63 years and Prime Ministers Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi had all attempted to tackle it, Singh said, “We are still groping for a solution.”
The internal dimension of the militancy has gone down but other issues remained, he said.
In a reference to the current unrest in the valley, the Prime Minister said that there had to be a different attitude to riot control. No lethal weapons but more humane methods should be used to deal with crowds, he said.
Singh also favoured more and more powers to be shifted to Jammu and Kashmir police. “Sometime it will work, sometimes it will not work,” he said.
Asked for his comments on the state Chief Minister Omar Abdullah’s statement that the status quo was not an option, the Prime Minister said that they were in touch with and he would not like to engage in a public discussion on this.
Singh’s remarks came amidst reports that the Centre may launch a fresh initiative to break the deadlock in Kashmir by making concessions on the issue of Armed Forces Special Powers Act.
It may also appoint an interlocutor to talk to various shades of opinion in the state.