Thursday, August 19, 2010

pawar no to give foodgrains free

19 Aug 2010


From Our Delhi Bureau

NEW DELHI: Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar on Thursday ruled out distribution of foodgrains free to the poorest as suggested by the Supreme Court to prevent stocks in the Food Corporation of India (FCI) rot for want of enough godowns. 

Talking to reporters here, he said this did not mean any defiance of the Supreme Court as the government is already selling foodgrains at very cheap rates to the poorest families as advised by i as an alternative to free distribution. The government is already providing wheat and rice at cheaper rates to the poor, he pointed out.

“We cannot distribute freely. Antodaya Anna Yojna (AAY) is applicable to the poorest of poor. We are buying wheat at Rs. 16 a kg and distributing at Rs. 2 a kg. What (the) Supreme Court is telling, we are already doing it,” he noted. 

However, it is not possible to implement the Supreme Court's order to give way grains free if they cannot be properly stored and spoil in the rains, he said, pointing out that the government was already giving a push to increase the storage capacity in a big way by building godowns in government as well as private sector.

BJP RESENTS: The main opposition Bhartiya Janata Party reacted sharply to Pawar's remarks, pointing out that the government will allow foodgrains to rot but not distribute them to poor. If Pawar has problem in free distriution, he can increase the PDS allocation from 15 kg per month to 35 kg per month and shift surplus foodgrains rotting in open to other states where they can be properly stored, BJP deputy leader Gopinath Munde in Lok Sabha told a press conference here.

He said it is the government's responsibility to ensure that whatever foodgrains are procured do not go waste and should be disposed off at the earliest as godowns cannot be built overnight to store them properly. He also wondered why the government was dragging feet in its poll promise of giving 35 kg of foodgrains every month to the BPL (below poverty line) families.

FCI, which is the nodal government agency for procurement and distribution of foodgrains, is having stocks much above its capacity to store. As per government records, it had stocks of 57.8 million tonnes on August 1 against the buffer norms of 31.9 million tonnes.

On Monday, a Bench of Justice Dalveer Bhandari and Deepak Verma gave direction to the Centre that "give it to the hungry poor instead grains going down the drain." The direction came on a PIL (public interest litigation) filed by civil rights group PUCL on foodgrains rotting in FCI facilities as they were stored in open and poor starving because of rampant corruption in the public distribution system (PDS).


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