Social audit of records of fair price shops will be introduced as part of the State government's efforts to provide transparency to the functioning of public distribution system (PDS) and fair price shops, E.V. Velu, Food and Civil Supplies Minister, informed the Assembly on Friday.

Under this system, the social audit of every shop in rural areas would be conducted twice a year during the meetings of the Gram Sabha.

In urban areas, special meetings would be held at the ward level. Deficiencies spotted during the exercise would be conveyed to officials concerned for remedial action, Mr Velu said, replying to the debate on the demands for grants to his department.

Till now, enforcement authorities and special audit teams were carrying out audit of the records of the fair price shops, he added.

The Minister announced the reduction in the retail price of packets of 10 spices and condiments, all being sold as a package through PDS, from Rs. 50 to Rs. 25.

As the quantity of three commodities – turmeric powder, coriander and chilly powder – supplied was more than the requirement of a family, the government decided to reduce it. Each cardholder would be entitled to two packets of the spices.

Taluk supply offices (TSO) in Salem, Erode and Tirupur would be bifurcated in view of the presence of a large number of cardholders coming under the three TSOs.

The Tirupur taluk accounted for 2,45,544 family cards and 180 fair price shops; Salem – 3,63,982 cards and 373 shops and Erode – 2,77,481 cards and 390 shops. A building would be constructed at a cost of Rs. 80 lakh to accommodate the Ambattur zonal office.

A godown of 1,500 tonnes capacity would be set up in Chembarampakkam village of Poonamallee taluk in Tiruvallur. Buildings would be constructed in 10 places at a cost of Rs. 1.5 crore to facilitate direct procurement of paddy from farmers, Mr Velu said in his nearly 90-minute-long reply.

Referring to the demand made by Leema Rose (Communist Party of India-Marxist) for selling more wheat, the Food Minister said the average monthly quantity, which was 5,917 tonnes in 2005-2006, went up to 11,209 tonnes in 2009-2010. From April, the quantity of wheat to be sold would be 15,000 tonnes. Besides, 5,000 tonnes of fortified atta would be made available.

Noting that 34,000 tonnes of sugar was sold every month, Mr. Velu said Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi had sanctioned Rs. 455 crore for supply of sugar at a subsidised rate. Since the present government took over, 15,71,433 new family cards were issued. Till now, 13.77 lakh tonnes of paddy was procured.