Maharashtra cuts grains quota of 6 lakh families from 35kg to 5kg per month
State says move will help prevent sale of excess foodgrains in the black marketmumbai Updated: Dec 24, 2017 00:52 IST
Mumbai: The Maharashtra government has reduced the monthly quota of subsidised foodgrain given to poor families under a welfare scheme from 35kg a family per month to 5kg per month. The decision will be applicable to six lakh families that comprise just one or two members. The government said such small families do not require more than 5kg foodgrain per month and that they sell the excess grains in the black market.
Under the Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY), 25 lakh poor families in the state are entitled to get a total of 35kg of rice and wheat per month at subsidised rates. The department said in families comprising one or two people do not require more than 5kg per head per month and the additional foodgrain is sold in the black market. To check this, the Food and Civil Supply department of the state has shifted six lakh families that come under AAY to priority household (PHH) list, thereby reducing the monthly quota to 5kg, officials said.
Mahesh Pathak, principal secretary, food civil supply and consumer protection department, told HT, “The idea is to curb malpractice and to give additional advantage to others. With one person or two persons with the AAY card getting 35kg per month, they are going to sell it. Nobody can consume a kilo of rice a day. It is a racket -- either the shopkeeper keeps the remaining food grain or there are agents who collect from the houses in the villages. If you go to any of the houses in villages you will never see any stock of food grains.”
The department is bringing about changes in the public distribution system (PDS) to prevent “wastage” and to widen the scope of the scheme, officials said. Pathak added that by shifting these families to PHH, the department can provide food grains to other needy people. “If we put them (families with one or two members) in PHH list, as a normal beneficiary, there are entitled to 5kg per head. Thus we save 30kg, so now a family of five people can be added to the scheme. Within the same allocation, we can add more people,” he said. The department has, however, not shifted families under categories such as tribal, households headed by women, people with disability, terminally ill, etc, as they will “permanently remain protected under AAY,” Pathak said.
However, activists have opposed the decision saying the government cannot reassign families to other schemes based on the number of family members. Kishore Tiwari, a farmers rights activist and head of the government-appointed Vasantrao Naik Shetkari Swawalambi Mission, said, “Activists like myself in the state have opposed this decision. If the government says that they sell the grains in the black market they should provide them 20kg under the Annapurna scheme for free. This decision will tarnish the image of the government because it is a decision to keep the poorest of the poor hungry. The state cannot change scheme without any directive from the Centre.”