The State government on Friday refuted the statement made by Union Minister of State for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution K.V. Thomas that Kerala had diverted rice and wheat allocated to the State for public distribution.
Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan said the Union Minister was trying to hide the Centre’s failure to shoulder its responsibility to supply grains to the State.
State Food and Civil Supplies C. Divakaran denied the allegation that the State was not distributing rice and wheat allocated to it through the ration shops. The full quantum of rations supplied at APL or BPL rates had been distributed through the shops up to January, he said.
However, the people were not willing to buy wheat supplied by the Centre at high prices. When ration card-holders did not buy rice at higher prices, the government distributed it through rice shops at Rs.13 a kg by providing a subsidy of Rs. 4 a kg.
Mr. Divakaran said that the State was pressing the Centre to restore its PDS quota. The government had intervened in the market to check prices. Essential commodities were being supplied at prices lower by 60 per cent compared to the open market prices. Sugar was being supplied through Supplyco outlets at half the market price. It was providing subsidy of Rs.7 a crore a month for selling sugar at Rs. 25 a kg, he added.
Finance Minister T.M. Thomas Isaac described the Union Minister’s allegation as ‘baseless.’ Dr. Isaac told reporters that the Centre had raised the price for APL card-holders from Rs.8.99 to Rs.16.90 a kg. Wheat for APL card-holders was being sold at Rs.15 a kg. Since the quality of rice was inferior there were no takers. The quality of the rice being distributed to the poor at Rs.2 a kg and for BPL card-holders at Rs.8.90 a kg was the same. The price of wheat was also high. Hence there were no takers for the rice and wheat allotted for APL families. Still, the government has not diverted the grain to the open market. After reviewing the financial situation, the government would think of selling the stock at reduced rate with more subsidy. He accused the Centre of trying to weaken the public distribution system by selling wheat in the open market sale system, where it sold grains to private traders. Since the Centre was put in the dock for its failure to arrest inflation, Prof. Thomas was making false statements to divert ire against the Congress. The Minister should desist from making statements unbecoming of his stature, Dr. Isaac said.