Conduct independent survey on BPL families, SC tells Centre

With states complaining of inadequate supply of foodgrains for public distribution system, the SC on Tuesday asked the Centre to examine the idea of conducting an independent nation-wide survey to identify BPL families.

New Delhi: With states complaining of
inadequate supply of foodgrains for public distribution
system, the Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Centre to examine at
the highest level the idea of conducting an independent
nation-wide survey to identify below poverty line and Antodaya
Anna Yojna families.

A Bench of Justices Dalveer Bhandari and Deepak Verma
said the Centre should try to allocate foodgrains to the
poor on a "realistic basis" by relying on the latest poverty
figures instead of depending on decades-old figures.
"When there is so much difference in the figures
presented by states and the Centre and when you do not support
their figures, why don`t you conduct an independent survey to
arrive at a realistic survey. You take up the issue at the
highest level.

"You (Centre) are citing the BPL/AAY figures of 2000.
Why don`t you take up the 2010 figures and arrive at a more
realistic assessment? We do not want the grains to be given to
the very affluent. It should not be given at the cost of the
hungry poor," the Bench told Additional Solicitor General
Mohan Parasaran.

The apex court made the remarks while dealing with a
public interest litigation moved by Peoples Union for Civil
Liberties`s(PUCL) complaining about largescale corruption in
the country`s public distribution system (PDS) and rotting of
food grains in government godowns.

The Bench also appreciated the affidavit filed by the
Kerala government even as states complained that the central
allocation for PDS distribution was grossly inadequate.
"We feel that the affidavit filed by Kerala is the
most practical. They have conducted a door-to-door survey to
identify BPL and AAY families. They have deployed even
teachers to conduct the survey. We think that is a practical
way of doing it," the Bench said.

Kerala`s counsel G Prakash submitted there was a deficit
of five lakh tonnes of foodgrains as the Centre was allocating
only 15 lakh tonnes as against the state`s requirement of 20
lakh tonnes.

As a result, he said the state was able to provide only
25 kg of rice for each BPL/AAY families as against the
prescribed 35 kg per month.

Supporting the argument, Bihar`s counsel Gopal Singh
submitted that according to the state`s estimates, there were
1.22 crore BPL/AAY families whereas the Centre was releasing
the grains only for 65.23 families by relying on its own data.

Madhya Pradesh`s counsel said the state was able to
provide only 17 kg per family in a month against the
prescribed 35 kg as the Centre was relying on its own data
while allocating the quota.
The ASG, however, defended the Centre`s action by saying
it applied its own parameters while determining BPL
beneficiaries.

It was at this juncture that the court suggested the
Centre conduct an independent survey by relying on the 2010
date to identify the beneficiaries for a more realistic
distribution of the food grains.

The Bench said it would hear the views of the other
states on Thursday.

The apex court had earlier ordered the government to
distribute foodgrains free of cost to the hungry poor but
the Centre had not given any commitment on the issue though
Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Paward had orally assured
that government would implement the direction.

Subsequently Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had joined the
issue saying courts should not interfere in policy matters.

PUCL had alleged many states were not getting adequate
stocks for distribution through PDS as the Centre was
allocating only a limited stock for distribution.
According to the civil rights group, now apart from 22
million tonnes of buffer stock, 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.

PTI

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