Centre`s affidavit in SC makes no mention of free foodgrains
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Last Updated: Thursday, November 11, 2010, 22:11
  
New Delhi: The Centre on Thursday appeared unwilling to commit to free distribution of foodgrains to the poor saying it was already allocating grains "at highly subsidised prices" under the targetted public distribution system (PDS) and various other welfare schemes.

In an affidavit filed before a Bench of Justices Dalveer Bhandari and Deepak Verma, the government said it was awaiting inputs from the National Advisory Council (NAC) for revising the list of BPL beneficiaries to provide them the benefit under the National Food Security Act.

"It is respectfully submitted that the Department of Food & Public Distribution is allocating foodgrains at highly subsidized prices under the targetted public distribution system (TDPS) and other welfare schemes.

"TPDS introduced in June 1997 itself was a conscious effort of the central government to ensure food security to the most vulnerable sections of the society," the affidavit said without giving a direct answer to the apex court's earlier order for free distribution of foodgrains to the poor instead of allowing it to rot in godowns.

The Bench had earlier asked the government to distribute foodgrains free of cost to the hungry and subsequently clarified that it was an order and not a suggestion as was made out by Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar.

However, subsequently Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said courts should not interfere in policy matters.

According to the Centre, as a consequence of the various welfare steps taken by it allocation of foodgrains to the BPL including the AAY(Antodaya Anna Yojana) families has increased from 71.17 lakh tonnes in 1998-99 to 276.78 lakh tonnes in 2010-11.

The total allocation under various other schemes like mid-day meals, wheat-based nutrition programmes was Rs 579.28 lakh tonnes, it said.

The Centre also said that as per the 2010 figures the addition to BPL families was only 1.17 crore families to the existing 6.52 crore families and not seven crores as claimed by the rights group PUCL.

The PUCL had alleged many states were not getting adequate stocks for distribution through PDS as the Centre was allocating only a limited stock.

According to the organisation, apart from 22 million tonnes of buffer stock at present, the Centre has an additional 33 million tonnes of foodgrains in its godowns but was allocating only a meagre 2.5 million tonnes for PDS.

The apex court, while taking on record the Centre's affidavit, asked PUCL to file its counter affidavit and posted the matter for further hearing to December 1.

PTI


First Published: Thursday, November 11, 2010, 22:11


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