Even as the government dithers on implementing increased food rates for the above poverty line (APL) category, the Supreme Court on Monday asked why the beneficiaries be entitled to subsidised rates.
“Why a person having high income should get subsidised food grains at the cost of the taxpayers’ money?” a bench of justice Dalveer Bhandari and justice Deepak Verma asked during the hearing of the PUCL’s petition on right to food filed in 2001.
The current price of one kg of wheat and rice for APL families is R8.55 and R11.85 while for the BPL category, it is R4.15 and R5.65. The Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) cardholders have to pay R2 and R3 respectively.
On the recommendations of the Planning Commission, the Cabinet Committee on Prices had last week decided to hike the APL rates by 40% but the decision has been put on hold in the light of the high food inflation.
Attorney General GE Vahanvati said the government had released 25 lakh tonnes of food grains each for the BPL and APL families on January 6, 2011, which should be enough to take care of the shortage of food grains to be distributed through public distribution system (PDS).
The court has favoured the computerisation of the PDS to check corruption and expressed concern at rotting of food grains in various godowns.
The Bench, which had in October 2010 ticked off the government after discovering that 67,539 tonnes of food grains had rotted in warehouses of Punjab and Haryana in 2009-10, asked the government to provide the data of other states as well.
The court asked the Centre to file an affidavit within two weeks and fixed February 24 as the final date of hearing.