Stop subsidised grain to APL families: SC to govt

Written by Indu Bhan | Indu Bhan | New Delhi | Updated: Jul 29 2010, 04:04am hrs
Expressing concern over tonnes of foodgrain rotting in the open, the Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Centre to consider disbanding subsidised grains distributed to Above Poverty Line (APL) families and instead restrict the facility only to Below Poverty Line (BPL) populace.

A bench headed by Justice Dalveer Bhandari observed that if the government cannot store the foodgrain, then give it to people to eat. It also said the government may also consider providing ration and other items according to members of the family, instead of a card basis. If there is one member in the family, he must be given ration accordingly and if there are five members, then they must get five times more. The state government can fix the maximum limit.

In a country where admittedly people are starving, it is a crime to waste even a single grain, the Bench said, adding that the submissions given by the government indicate that there is wastage of food in many places.

The judges also suggested that the government may consider constructing adequate warehouses or food storage facilities on a long-term basis. On a short-term basis, they can also consider hiring warehouses or putting up waterproof tents to save the grain. But all-out efforts must be made to ensure that not a single grain is wasted, it said.

The court said the whole public distribution system (PDS) should be computerised to avoid pilferage and corruption and the system should be linked to Unique Identification Authority (UID) of India and fair price shops should be operated by government bodies instead of private agencies to check corruption and pilferage in the existing system.

The apex court also said if the existing subsidy is withdrawn from APL families, there would be enough foodgrains for the BPL category. The Bench granted six weeks time to Additional Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran to respond to the suggestions so that it could pass appropriate orders. The observations came on a PIL filed in 2001 by Peoples Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) alleging rampant corruption and mismanagement of PDS.