THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The Food Corporation of India (FCI) has clarified that it is the low off-take of wheat allotted for the Above Poverty Line (APL) category consumers that has invited the cut in wheat quota for Kerala. In a press note here on Saturday, S. Elango, general manager, FCI, Kerala, said it was wrong to blame the FCI for the cut in wheat quota or to blame it for not having kept sufficient stock. While the wheat allotted for Below Poverty Line (BPL) cardholders had always been cent per cent, it was only 27 per cent in the case of APL cardholders during 2003-'04, 37 per cent in 2004-'05 and 60 per cent in 2005-'06, he said.
Citing Food and Civil Supplies Minister C. Divakaran's statement at a recent meet-the-press programme that his first priority was to bring all ration cardholders to fair price shops, Mr. Elango said, "This alone indicates the fact that the changed lifestyle of the consumer of the State is the main reason for the poor off-take of foodgrains from the PDS [public distribution system] and not because of poor stock position with the FCI." He added: "In the absence of any demand from the consumers, there is no economic prudence to keep huge quantity as per the allotment especially when the off-take has remained stagnant for years together."
Mr. Elango said the State Government had expressed happiness about the functioning of FCI in Kerala at the Southern Food Secretaries' Conference held here in November 2005, and that the FCI has been intimating the stock position to the State Government on daily as well as monthly basis. There has never been any shortage of wheat stock position from what has been reported to the State Government on paper. Year-end physical verification is done in FCI depots and certificate issued by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India, he pointed out.
Meanwhile, the Kerala Ration Wholesale Distributors Federation has urged the Chief Minister and Food Minister to alert the Central Government to the adverse effects of the decision to cut the State's wheat quota. In a statement here, Federation general secretary Luke Stephen said though the Federation had taken up the low availability of wheat with the FCI and the State Government, their response was not encouraging. Since Kerala is dependent on other States for its food grain needs, the Government should immediately take up the matter with the Centre.