With the Lok Sabha polls around the corner, the populist 'atta dal' scheme in its 'new avatar' was launched in the border districts of Punjab by food and civil supplies minister Adesh Partap Singh Kairon here on Friday.
The prospect of the election code of conduct coming into force anytime now seems to have prompted the SAD-BJP leaders into hurriedly launching the tweaked scheme, without even including the new beneficiaries, whose lists are still being compiled in the districts. The state-level launch of the new scheme was held at Sultanpur Lodhi on February 17.
The launch of the new scheme for the border districts took place at a function held in the Maqboolpura area of the city falling under the Amritsar East assembly segment. The local MLA and chief parliamentary secretary (CPS), Dr Navjot Kaur Sidhu, was also present. She signalled the launch by giving away the first sack containing the wheat to a BPL family.
The old scheme covered around 18 lakh beneficiaries belonging to below poverty line (BPL) families and blue card holders. The new scheme will cover a total of 31.79 lakh families.
Addressing the gathering of beneficiaries, Kairon said that under the new scheme, wheat will be provided at Rs. 1 per kg as against the earlier rate of Rs. 4 per kg while dal (pulses) will be provided at Rs. 20 per kg.
"Another difference is that while in the old scheme, only five members of a family were entitled to the benefits of the scheme, now all the family members will be covered", he explained.
The minister also pointed out that instead of monthly distribution, now the beneficiaries will collect their quota of wheat and dal for six months. The quota which was distributed on Friday was for the period between December 2013 to May 2014. The next distribution will take place in June.
For a period of six months, each member of a family would get 30 kg wheat. The wheat would come in 30 kg sacks while the dal would be made available in packets.
Kairon also heard complaints from certain families who claimed that despite being in the BPL category they were left out of the scheme. He immediately directed the district officials to check their status and then include them in the scheme.
Local bodies minister Anil Joshi, CPS Inderbir Singh Bolaria, food and civil supplies secretary HS Grewal and food and civil supplies director Satwant Singh Johal were also present in the function.