The Supreme Court has nominated a secretary-level officer in the Centre to monitor the effective implementation of govt’s food prog for the poor as a report suggested that computerisation of the entire PDS to stop pilferage and corruption has not made substantial progress.
The apex court on Friday appointed Secretary, Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, to coordinate with states and union territories for distribution of foodgrains under the targeted Public Distribution System (PDS) which is a massive operation undertaken by the government to provide food to poor in the country.
A bench of justices Dalveer Bhandari and Dipak Misra said the report of the justice D P Wadhwa committee, which has been examining the working of PDS, has categorically said no substantial work on digitilisation and computerisation of PDS has taken place and bogus ration cards are being made.
It said that for achieving the target, the secretary will be coordinating with state governments and union territories as it has been suggested that the union government was not getting the adequate support from them.
The bench said the committee had in January visited Satara district in Maharashtra and found that the digitilisation of PDS programme was being carried without verifying the forms and as a result bogus ration cards were in circulation.
It said since the computerisation programme was extremely slow, or in some instances non-existent, there was a need for cooperation between the Centre and state governments.
The bench said the secretary will file fortnightly report to the apex court on the implementation of the programme and the next report will be placed by him before 12th March so that the hearing could take place on 15th March.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution submitted an affidavit before the bench on the steps taken by it to follow the earlier orders of the apex court regarding allocation of five million metric tonnes of additional foodgrain to 150 poorest districts.
It said the Wadhwa Committee has identified 174 poorest districts and in accordance with its recommendations the ministry has so far made additional allocations amounting to 23.68 lakh tonnes of foodgrains with the approval of competent authority.
The affidavit said he Central Vigilance Committee headed by Justice Wadhwa has devised a scheme of community kitchen for providing cooked meals to the poor living at places like city hospitals and bus stops at nominal cost or free with the help of corporates and Public Sector Units under their Corporate Social responsibility (CSR) programme.
It, however, regretted the committee had received a poor response from various ministries on the proposal of community kitchen with the help of CSR programme.
“The CVC addressed letters to secretaries of various Ministries of Government of India to motivate the corporations working under their control to participate in this endeavour.
“As per information received from CVC, the response from the ministries has been very poor. Only Ministry of Steel has intimated that the matter is being examined and the decision taken in this regard will be intimated shortly,” the affidavit said.
The affidavit also stated that a proposal to allocate 1227.4 quintals of foodgrans per month for one year at AAY prices for the community kitchen scheme as per the recommendations of CVC has been submitted for approval of competent authority.
The apex court had on 14th September last year observed that no one in the country should die of starvation and malnutrition and it is the responsibility of the government to provide food to the poor and asked all states to specify how much additional foodgrains under PDS are needed to meet the objective.
The bench passed the order while dealing with a PIL filed by Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) complaining about large-scale corruption and irregularities in the PDS mechanism.
The apex court had earlier said all states should emulate the PDS model adopted by Tamil Nadu which has been supplying rice at Rs 1 per kg and subsidised fortified atta and pulses to BPL families without much hassles and complaint of pilferage and misappropriation.
It had directed the Centre to allocate additional five million tonnes of foodgrains to the 150 poorest districts under the supervision of a committee appointed by it.