Punjab cabinet says no to tagging houses of subsidised ration beneficiaries

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Updated on Feb 03, 2020 12:24 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, Chandigarh | By Gurpreet Singh Nibber, Chandigarh

The Punjab cabinet has unanimously rejected the recommendation of the Vidhan Sabha welfare committee to mark the houses of beneficiaries of the smart ration card scheme, earlier known as atta-dal scheme, maintaining that it might cause social stigma.

The scheme was rechristened when the Congress came to power in the state in 2017.

The matter came for discussion in last week’s cabinet meeting, when food and civil supplies minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu said the welfare committee asked to implement its decision to fix metal plates or mark the houses with paint to identify the beneficiaries of the scheme to weed out the non-genuine ones.

The state government has decided to put on hold the implementation and the matter will be discussed in the forthcoming budget session of the assembly.

Balluana MLA Nathu Ram, who heads the committee comprising 13 MLAs of all parties, told HT that they approved the idea to check duplication and non-genuine beneficiaries by way of identifying them publically.

“It will be a kind of social audit. There are a large number of cases of non-genuine beneficiaries availing the scheme. The neighbouring states of Haryana and Rajasthan mark the houses of the beneficiaries. What is the problem if Punjab also replicates this?” the Balluana MLA questioned.

He said the committee toured the two states and found that it is a practical way of keeping the fake beneficiaries out. “We have asked the food and civil supplies minister and the principal secretary of the department to implement the recommendations,” he added.

“The council of ministers was unanimous that there was no need for such a move, as there is stigma attached to it. Therefore, the cabinet has decided to approach the legislative committee through the Vidhan Sabha to withdraw the recommendations,” food and civil supplies minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu told HT.

In June last year, the food and civil supplies department had ordered a fresh survey of beneficiaries of the smart ration card scheme and also decided to replace the blue cards with smart cards.

In the first survey ordered immediately after Capt Amarinder Singh took over as chief minister in 2017, as many as 2.8 lakh beneficiaries were found to be fake.

There are at least 1.38 crore beneficiaries under the scheme. This is besides the Antodaya Ann Yojana (AAY) funded by the Centre which includes 1.5 lakh poor beneficiaries in Punjab.

Under the smart ration card scheme, 5kg wheat per family member is given every month.

On the other hand, 35 kg wheat is given per family every month under the AAY scheme. In both scheme, Punjab gives grain in advance for six months.

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