The Tamil Nadu government would soon be increasing its food subsidy to Rs.3,500 crore, Deputy Chief Minister, M.K.Stalin said on Monday.

“The food subsidy granted by the State government is now Rs.2,900 crore,” he said at a function in Tambaram to launch new people-friendly initiatives and projects of the Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Protection Department.

Ever since the present regime took over, there was a lot focus on modernisation of the department, prevention of smuggling of essential commodities from the public distribution system and steps were taken to ensure that the benefits reached all sections of society.

He said the monthly offtake of rice through fair price shops three years ago was 2.5 lakh tonnes and it had increased to 3.18 lakh tonnes. Similarly, the monthly offtake of wheat had increased from 6,000 tonnes to 13,000 tonnes, while that of sugar from 20,000 tonnes a month to 34,000 tonnes now. Pointing out that all the promises in the election manifesto of his party were now being fulfilled, he said as rice was available at Re.1 a kg, it was being smuggled out of Tamil Nadu. To ensure that the beneficiaries received their due, the Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Protection was adopting modern methods to combat this problem, Mr. Stalin said, adding provision of electronic billing machines in fair price shops was one of them.

At the function, the Deputy Chief Minister launched the machines in all fair price shops of Chennai.

The electronic billing machine was in operation at a shop in Anna Nagar and has been extended to all 939 fair price shops of the different cooperative societies and 351 shops of Tamil Nadu Civil Supplies Corporation. The machines would be linked to a government server from where, the daily sales, stock position and other details in each of these shops could be checked.

He laid the foundation stone for construction of 251 fair price shops in different parts of the State at a cost of Rs.8.78 crore and an office building for Assistant Commissioner of Civil Supplies in Tambaram at a cost of Rs.70 lakh.

Mr. Stalin also inaugurated a Customer Service Centre with helpline where people could call and record their grievances and complaints not only about PDS, but also about deficiencies in service in the private market and retail sector.

He gave away free liquefied petroleum gas stoves to a section of women on the occasion. Food Minister A.V.Velu and Labour Welfare Minister T.M.Anbarasan spoke on the occasion.

In his welcome address, Kancheepuram Collector Santhosh K. Misra said the district administration was combating the menace of bogus ration cards and smuggling of essential commodities with an iron hand. A total of 81,703 bogus cards, constituting 13 per cent of the total ration cards in the district, were seized.

K.Shanmugam, Principal Secretary to the Department, said 13 of the 16 zonal offices in Chennai were functioning from rented premises. The new customer service with the round-the-clock helpline (28592828) would have features such as interactive voice response system apart from staff to attend calls and log complaints.

Tambaram MLA S.R.Raja and Municipal Chairman E.Mani offered their felicitations. K.Rajaraman, Commissioner, Civil Supplies and Consumer Protection, proposed a vote of thanks.

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