There can`t be two Indias: SC on starvation deaths

Expressing concern over starvation deaths, SC said India cannot be divided between elite and poor.

Last Updated: Apr 21, 2011, 00:11 AM IST

New Delhi: Expressing serious concern
over the growing instances of starvation deaths in the
country, the Supreme Court on Wednesday said there cannot be "two
Indias" divided between the elite and the poor.

A bench of justices Dalveer Bhandari and Deepak Verma
also asked the Planning Commission to explain its rationale
behind limiting the number of below poverty line (BPL) people
in a state to 36 per cent of its population.

"You can`t have two Indias. What is this stark
contradiction in our whole approach in eradication of
malnutrition. You say you are a powerful country but at the
same time, starvation deaths are taking place in various parts
of the country. It (malnutrition) must be totally eliminated
and eradicated," the bench told Additional Solicitor General
Mohan Parasaran.

The apex court wondered what was the logic in the
government claiming that there were adequate food grains in
the country when thousands of people are dying on account of
starvation.

The bench made the scathing observations as Parasaran
sought to explain that the government was determined to reduce
the malnutrition problem and streamline the Public
Distribution System and that malnutrition is coming down.

"What do you mean by coming down? It must be
eradicated," the bench remarked.

The apex court cited newspaper reports that the
country was witnessing bumper crops and the godowns were
overflowing with grains.

"No doubt it is a very happy situation for all of us
but if people don`t get the benefit, what is the use?" the
bench asked.

The bench made the critical remarks while dealing with
a PIL filed by Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL)
complaining about large scale corruption and irregularities in
the PDS mechanism of the country.

Questioning the plan panel rational in fixing 36
per cent as the percentage of BPL families in the country, the
bench said, "It is astonishing as to how you can fix 36
per cent people in the BPL category in 2011 by relying on the
1991 Census data."

The apex court noted that a number of states including
those ruled by the Congress have filed their affidavits
insisting that the BPL percentage is much more that the 36
per cent fixed by the Commission and had sought more food
grains for distribution among the BPL and APL families.

"How can you fix such a limit when the per capita
income varies from state to state?" the bench said.

The bench also questioned the Commission for fixing
the per capita daily income of Rs 20 in urban areas and Rs 11
in rural areas to determine the BPL category.

"How can you justify fixation of this meagre amount
when even in the rural areas the amount is not enough.

"The Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission must
explain and file a comprehensive affidavit within one week,"
the bench said in its order.

PTI