New Delhi, July 27 (IANS) The Supreme Court Tuesday sought the central government’s response to its suggestion to abolish the above poverty line segment and expand the ambit of the below poverty line (BPL) category under the public distribution system.
This would take care of the needs of a larger segment of people living on or below the poverty line without incurring any corresponding financial burden on the government, said the apex court bench of Justice Dalveer Bhandari and Justice Deepak Verma.
The court asked the union food secretary to file an affidavit on this matter and suggestions including steps to plug pilferage and to check rotting of the foodgrains that are kept in the open and exposed to vagaries of nature. The food secretary was asked to file his reply within two weeks.
‘In a country where admittedly people are dying of starvation, there it is a crime, even if one grain is allowed to rot,’ said Justice Bhandari.
Instead of letting the foodgrains rot, it would be better to let the poor people take it, the court said.
The court said so when senior counsel Colin Gonsalves drew its attention to the 48,000 tonnes of wheat that is stocked in the open in Punjab and would become unfit even for animal consumption after sometime.
All those involved in the food chain — from procurement to distribution — should be made accountable for any dereliction of duty and the consequent loss of food stocks, the court said.
As a short term measure, it suggested that the government hire warehouses to stock the foodgrains and in the long run it should create more storage capacity by building warehouses.
The series of suggestions given by the court included issuing ration not on the basis of each ration card but the actual number of family members. For a single person the quantum of ration should be less than what it would be say for a family of five members, it suggested.
The court added that the government should eliminate private operators from the public distribution system (PDS) chain and entrust its distribution network to a state-owned corporation.
It asked the government to consider the recommendation of the National Advisory Council (NAC), which has suggested that foodgrains to the BPL category would be available to all in 150 most backward and poverty-ridden districts. In the remaining districts, it could be only 50 percent.
The court also asked the government to create a software in collaboration with Unique Identification Department for the PDS that would be used by the states.
It then reiterated its Jan 10, 2008 direction asking all state governments and union territories to give 35 kg of foodgrains through the PDS to people living below the poverty line.