Ensure proper distribution to targeted PDS beneficiaries

The Supreme Court on Monday wanted the Centre to ensure that there was no further wastage of foodgrains and that there was proper distribution to the targeted beneficiaries.

Justice Dalveer Bhandari, hearing a Public Interest Litigation petition on streamlining the Public Distribution System, told Additional Solicitor-General Mohan Parasaran, who said the wastage was 7,000 tonnes and not 70,000 tonnes: “Enough is enough. We don't want further wastage.”When the ASG said, “the figure should be 0.07 lakh tonne, instead of 0.70 lakh tonnes,” Justice Bhandari said: “Let us not go by percentage when the full figure is available for the two States of Punjab and Haryana, viz. 67,539 tonnes.”

Justice Deepak Verma, the other judge on the Bench, said: “Even assuming that 7,000 tonnes is correct, it is a huge waste. How can you allow this to happen?”

Pending for decade

Justice Bhandari said: “This matter has pending for almost a decade now. When people are dying of hunger, you [Centre] must have done some evaluation by comparing the percentage of waste the world over. It is an extremely serious matter. You have a buffer stock. The kharif crop is due to come from October. The damage done in [the] two States is very high. What action have you taken against the officials responsible for the wastage? Whatever that is likely to go waste at least that must not go waste. Ensure that it is properly distributed.”

When the ASG said “the foodgrains did not become waste as they have been destroyed,” Justice Bhandari made it clear: “If it is not fit for human consumption we do not suggest that it should be given to them [people]. It should not be given even to animals.”

When Justice Verma wanted to know whether the government could supply foodgrains to all below the poverty line beneficiaries, the ASG said: “The Centre has supplied foodgrains to each State based on the BPL families. In some States the figures are at variance.” If identification of the BPL families by the States conformed to the Centre's norms, there would not be any difficulty in supply.

“On the basis of the revised poverty estimates based on the March 2009 population, the number of BPL families comes to 5.90 crore, which is less than the existing coverage of 6.52 crore BPL families. However, the government has continued with the earlier poverty estimates so that allocation of foodgrains could be made to larger BPL families,” Mr. Parasaran said.

Senior counsel Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the People's Union for Civil Liberties, said that at present there was a buffer stock of 22 million tonnes and an additional 33 million tonnes of foodgrains was in godowns. He wanted to know why the Centre had allocated only 2.5 million tonnes for the PDS.

Arguments will continue on Tuesday.