Promises stern action; Chief Secretary to conduct probe

The Cabinet has expressed concern at the failure of some local bodies to deliver social welfare funds to certain segments of beneficiaries despite their timely release for distribution.

Addressing a post-Cabinet press briefing here on Friday, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said the Cabinet had directed Chief Secretary Bharat Bhushan to conduct a probe into why the social welfare funds, including pension amounts, did not reach several segments of beneficiaries despite being released on time to the local bodies.

“I am looking at the positive side. I don’t want to make any prejudiced statement that there was a sabotage attempt. It could be just laxity on the part of the concerned officials. But, stern action will be taken against erring persons,” Mr. Chandy said, narrating how a visually-impaired person had approached him with a complaint that he had not received his pension amount. Mr. Chandy said he had received several such complaints and the Chief Secretary would examine whether there had been other such instances where beneficiaries had not received such funds.

The Chief Minister said that except for this regretful matter, Onam went off well without any untoward incidents during the festivities. “Usually, the State witnesses various kinds of agitations during Onam. This time it was peaceful. No labour problem was reported. The government cleared all demands from various sections by taking clear cut decisions on payment of bonus and festival advance, pensions, and other benefits,” he said.

The runaway rise in prices put a big strain on the State government’s finances. But he was satisfied at the contributions of Supplyco, Consumerfed, and Horticorp, which together, had effectively intervened in the market to hold the price line down. These organisations had been allocated whatever funds they demanded.

In the last three years, the United Democratic Front (UDF) government had extended a total assistance of Rs.338.35 crore during the Onam season as against the Rs.264.33-crore allocated by the previous Left Democratic Front (LDF) government during 2008-11.

The Chief Secretary would carry out an evaluation of the utilisation of funds allocated to these three organisations. This would be more of an academic exercise in order to improve market intervention programmes in future.

He said he had written to each and very MLA seeking their cooperation in the government’s effort to tackle price rise in their respective constituencies.

He had ordered corrective actions whenever issues related to quality, availability, and price list of commodities had been brought to his notice.

Only CPI leader C. Divakaran had replied to his letter, while many others responded positively by pointing out to gaps, he said.

He did not expect any kind of disruption to the mass contact programmes that he proposed to launch soon after Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s visit because the elected representatives would not be able to be insensitive to popular sentiments.

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