To curb the election-season misuse of the atta-dal (food subsidy) scheme by Punjab’s SAD-BJP government, the Election Commission of India (EC) has directed it to give only the current month’s ration at a time, as against the current practice of giving six months’ ration in advance to the scheme’s ‘blue card’ holders.
Further, the commission said no food and civil supplies department officer or political persons be involved in the distribution process, which should be carried out exclusively through the designated fair-price shops.
The Congress had lodged several complaints in the matter, and its candidate from Patiala, Preneet Kaur, had gone to the EC after the Punjab chief electoral officer (CEO) failed to take immediate action. The state government defended the scheme and termed it as “a continuous and ongoing welfare scheme from the last seven years”. The Punjab CEO forwarded the report of the state government on March 18 to the EC, which has now taken the final decision.
Earlier, the EC had stopped distribution of blue cards to newly added beneficiaries after the central government’s Food Security Act came into force.
Preneet welcomed the decision, “The Congress doesn’t want to stop ration to beneficiaries, but the Akalis were using the scheme for electoral benefits, even giving ration to only SAD-BJP supporters.” She underlined that while the state government had failed to distribute foodgrains regularly to the beneficiaries earlier, it started giving six months’ ration after the elections neared.
Under the scheme, now tweaked to add even more beneficiaries as per the Food Security Act, the state gives wheat at `1 per kg and pulses at `20 per kg to poor families. It played a major role in garnering support of weaker sections for the SAD-BJP in the 2012 assembly elections.