Activists slam move to transfer money instead of grains to poor

Dilip Shinde, controller of rationing and director of civil supplies, said the scheme has been launched on a trial-basis for 200 families from Mahalakshmi and Azad Maidan.
Activists and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have criticised the state’s decision to replace distribution of food grains to the underprivileged through public distribution system (PDS) with direct benefit transfer (DBT) of subsidy (in cash) into their accounts.(REUTERS)
Activists and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have criticised the state’s decision to replace distribution of food grains to the underprivileged through public distribution system (PDS) with direct benefit transfer (DBT) of subsidy (in cash) into their accounts.(REUTERS)
Updated on Aug 28, 2018 07:06 AM IST
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Hindustan Times, Mumbai | ByHT Correspondent, Mumbai

Activists and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have criticised the state’s decision to replace distribution of food grains to the underprivileged through public distribution system (PDS) with direct benefit transfer (DBT) of subsidy (in cash) into their accounts. They alleged DBT will deprive the poor of benefits.

Dilip Shinde, controller of rationing and director of civil supplies, said the scheme has been launched on a trial-basis for 200 families from Mahalakshmi and Azad Maidan.

“Ration card holders have the option to choose between cash benefits or food grain. No beneficiary will be deprived of his or her rights if they don’t opt for DBT,” he added.

As per the new scheme, beneficiaries will get cash equivalent to 1.25 times of the minimum support price of wheat and rice [per kilogram] into their accounts. However, beneficiaries have the option to choose between DBT or food grains before 15th of every month.

The decision was taken as per directives of the Centre and Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed with a social organisation for implementing the new scheme. The food and civil supplies department said DBT will help save a major chunk of Rs 400 crore spent on transport, labour cost and warehouse rent.

“We distribute 3.83 lakh metric tonnes of wheat and rice annually to 1.48 crore ration card holders in the state for which Rs 70 crore are spent on labour, Rs 75 crore on transportation and Rs 8 per quintal on warehouse rent monthly. The Centre spends even more on these expenditures apart from procuring grains. We expect to save a major chunk of this expenditure by shifting to DBT,” said an official.

Mukta Shrivastava, convenor of Anna Adhikar Abhiyaan, a social organisation working for food safety, said it was the beginning of the end of PDS scheme.

“Though they claim DBT will be voluntary, the government will eventually make it compulsory — just like the Aadhaar. The cash offered [1.25% of MSP] is between Rs 17 and Rs 20 per kg, which is less than the current market rate,” she added.

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