Members of the Opposition walked out of the Assembly on Wednesday in protest against the government’s alleged failure to prevent the diversion of the Centre’s rice quota for Below Poverty Line (BPL) families to the market and to arrest inflation.

V.S. Sunil Kumar (Communist Party of India) who sought leave for an adjournment motion said 1,32,725 tonnes of rice allotted by the Union government for distribution among families that possess Above Poverty Line cards and are eligible to be in the BPL category was being diverted to the market with the connivance of a section of officials of the Civil Supplies Department. Since the preparation of the Plan documents was on in civic bodies, the BPL families which happened to be in the APL list were unable to change their status. The rice allotted to them was being diverted to the black market.

The prices of all essential commodities had gone up. While the previous Left Democratic Front (LDF) government distributed 13 essential commodities through Supplyco outlets, the present government had reduced it to nine. The frequent revision of diesel prices and lack of market intervention efforts had triggered inflation. The government had failed to curb price rise, he said.

Food and Civil Supplies Minister Anoop Jacob said the government had taken all possible steps to arrest inflation and had not reduced the number of items distributed through the Supplyco outlets. Now, rice was also being distributed at subsidised rates. An end-to-end computerisation of the public distribution system would help check black-marketeering and diversion of grain from FCI godowns to other places.

Chief Minister Oommen Chandy said the direct cash transfer system envisaged for distributing subsidy to the target groups was an effective solution, but the Opposition was resisting it. If the concern was that the subsidy transfer would be delayed, the government was ready to remit the money in the accounts of the beneficiaries. In addition to the grain allotment for the BPL section, the State had sought additional quota and it had been granted too, he said.

Based on the Chief Minister’s reply, Speaker G. Karthikeyan denied leave for the motion and the Opposition walked out in protest.

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