M A I N   N E W S

Overhaul PDS, SC tells govt
R Sedhuraman
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, May 14
Expressing concern over widespread prevalence of starvation deaths and malnutrition, the Supreme Court today issued a series of directives to the Centre and state governments to revamp the Public Distribution System (PDS) and ensure foodgrains allocated under the scheme reach the poor.

A Bench comprising Justices Dalveer Bhandari and Deepak Verma passed a detailed order at a special sitting after hearing a PIL that sought measures for checking rampant corruption in the PDS. The Bench directed the Centre, which had already agreed to release an additional five million tonne of foodgrains for distribution in 150 poorest districts of the country, to keep another five million tonne as “reserve” to meet exigencies in these districts and similar pockets in the country elsewhere.

It has also asked the Planning Commission to raise the present per capita income cut-off for determining those below the poverty line (BPL) to a reasonable level. The present cap of Rs 15 for those living in rural areas and Rs 20 for urban areas was too low considering the high inflation level of late, the Bench explained.

Further, the number of BPL families should be revised every year based on the provisional population figures, rather than sticking to the decadal Census data. For instance, the population was estimated to have gone up by about 2 crore since the 2010 Census which had put the figure at 117.67 crore, the apex court pointed out.

Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium and Additional SG Mohan Parasaran argued that there was no point in raising the foodgrain allocations to the states as in 2010-11 the states lifted only 39.7 per cent of their total entitlement of 105.66 lakh tonne. Let the states first utilise the present allocation and if they faced any shortfall thereafter, the Centre would replenish their stock, they said.

At this, the Bench directed the states to immediately lift their unutilised allocations. The court asked the DP Wadhwa committee, engaged in computerising the PDS after going into the problem of corruption, to oversee the distribution of the 10 million additional foodgrains, including the 5 million that would be kept as reserve.

Pointing out that the present practice of allocating 35 kg of foodgrains per family, irrespective of the fact whether it consisted of one member or 10 members, the court said this should be changed and the entitlement should be based on the family size which was the norm in Tamil Nadu.

The Bench said there should not be any problem in implementing the suggestions in view of the comfortable grain stock and the bumper crop this season.

The court directives

  • PDS allocation on family basis should go
  • Entitlement should depend on family size
  • Raise income cut-off for BPL qualification
  • BPL numbers should be revised every year
  • Justice Wadhwa panel will monitor PDS
  • States should immediately lift unutilised allocations





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