Tripura opposes food subsidy in cash

Agartala: Left-ruled Tripura on Thursday strongly opposed the central government’s proposal to provide direct transfer of food subsidy in cash to people, currently accessible through the public distribution system (PDS).

To check the leakage and diversions, an alternate model of direct transfer of food subsidy in cash to the consumers has been proposed by the Congress-led central government.

Suggestions of state governments and the union territories on the alternate models have been invited on the issue.

“This alternative proposal is unrealistic and there is a belief that the central government is cleverly chalking out an escape route from their basic duty of ensuring supply of essential commodities up to the door step of the common people,” Tripura Food and Civil Supplies Minister Manik Dey told reporters.

He said: “There must be universal coverage of PDS. Centre should introduce a scheme for supply of state-preferred basic essential commodities like edible oil, pulses, detergent powder, soap, spices, exercise books for students, toothpaste and cheap cloth.”

The minister, who returned here after attending the conference of food ministers of states in New Delhi Tuesday, said the Tripura government was now examining the setting up of a state civil supplies corporation to distribute the additional items through the PDS.

Quoting union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution K.V. Thomas, Dey said a pilot scheme to provide direct transfer of food subsidy would be taken up shortly in some union territories to assess the efficacy of the proposed alternative model, before its implementation in other states.

According to the Tripura minister, most of the state governments in the conference have opposed the direct transfer of food subsidy in cash to the consumers.

Strongly opposing the National Food Security (NFS) draft bill, the Tripura minister said that, in its present form, it is grossly inadequate in achieving its objectives.

“The NFS draft bill is against the interests of the poor and the middle class as it would weaken the PDS. To control the market, the PDS must be a strong arrangement,” he observed.

“As per the present form of the NFS bill, 25 percent rural people and 50 percent urban citizens would be out of the purview of the PDS,” Dey said.

The minister alleged that the Manmohan Singh-led UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government had been trying to withdraw the PDS and encourage black-marketing of food items.

“The NFS draft bill proposes that the state government has to be liable to make payment of food security allowance in case of failure to supply entitled quantity of foodgrain to the entitled person. The Left Front government opposes this provision,” the Tripura food minister said. “The draft bill has so many flaws,” said the Marxist trade union leader-turned-minister.

The ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) has been organising protest rallies demanding an overhaul of the draft NFS bill. (IANS)

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