BJP wants assurance that grain would be distributed among the poor

The Union government will respect the Supreme Court's decision on free distribution of grain to the poor, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday.

“This government respects the decisions of all courts and will also pay attention to the members' suggestions,” he said, responding to the issue raised by Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj. “Whatever needs to be done will be done.”

The matter was raised in the afternoon after the Supreme Court clarified that it ordered free distribution of grain to the poor in its August 12 directive, instead of allowing it to rot in godowns, and it was not a suggestion as being made out by Mr. Pawar.

Mr. Pawar said he heard about the Court's observations from the media and made attempts to get a copy of its order. “It would be improper on my part to make any comment without reading the official order of the Supreme Court, as it could even amount to misleading the House.”

There was a brief adjournment, as members demanded a reply from the Minister, who was not in the House, but came in subsequently. Ms. Swaraj took up the issue after a calling attention moved by Harsimrat Kaur (Akali Dal) on rejection of 40 lakh tonnes of PAU-201 rice variety by the Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSA).

The calling attention saw a heated debate and an adjournment in the pre-lunch session, with the Akali Dal members twice trooping into the well of the House, dissatisfied with Health and Family Welfare Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad's reply that the report of an expert committee was likely to be submitted by the second week of September. The FSSA rejected it, citing provisions of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act and the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006.

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