Why was less food grain lifted for PDS, asks Bombay HC
Explain why more than 8.65 lakh metric tonnes (mt) of food grains meant for the poor under the Public Distribution System (PDS) have not been lifted between April and November 2011, the Bombay high court asked the state government on Thursday.
A division bench of justice DD Sinha and justice V K Tahilramani, while directing the state government to file a detailed affidavit, said: “In areas such as Vidarbha, there is no food and water available to the poor and here such a huge stock of food grains is just lying in some godown.”
The court was hearing a public interest litigation filed by Shramik Mukti Sanghatna, an NGO working for the weaker section of the society, seeking proper implementation of the May 2011 directives of the Supreme Court to exhaust existing quantity of food grains allocated to various states and ensure they are distributed immediately among the poor.
Advocate Kranti LC told the court that between April 2011 and January 2012, the Central government had allocated 11.90 lakh mt of food grains through PDS in Maharashtra, but only 6.23 lakh mt were lifted by the state government.
The judges were surprised to know that an additional stock of 9.62 lakh mt was allocated for the poor in Maharashtra, but the government lifted only 2.41 lakh mt of this ad-hoc allocation made for the same period.
The state government tried to explain the lapses committed by the food and civil supplies department saying that almost two-third of the above poverty line (APL) category card holders were not taking food grains from fair price shops and, therefore, a huge stock was being returned to the Food Corporation of India.
The state further claimed that the deficiency had also been caused because of problems in transportation and employees' strike at the Food Corporation of India, from where food grains are lifted for distribution under the PDS.
The court then directed the food and civil supplies department to file an affidavit within eight weeks stating on what basis this conclusion was being drawn.
The high court also sought to know if the undistributed stock of food grains meant for distribution among the APL category could be allocated and distributed to below poverty line and Antyodaya Anna Yojna ration card holders.