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
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.