Special Correspondent

State Government reduces wheat quota to 25 kg

from 35 kg

JAIPUR: Human rights groups have challenged the Rajasthan Government's latest initiative to provide wheat at the rate of Rs.2 per kg to the 27 lakh-strong BPL families in the State pointing out that there is a catch in the move—that instead of the entitlement of 35 kg of wheat per BPL family every month, the quota has been brought down to 25 kg.

“To reduce the entitlement is a retrogressive step which requires reconsideration on various counts as it amounts to violation of Supreme Court orders in the right to food case besides the fact that it would lead to under nourishment in a large number of families who will be forced to buy wheat from the open market,” Ashok Khandelwal, Advisor to the Commissioners of the Supreme Court, points out. “It goes against the spirit of universal entitlement,” he notes.

The Congress Government in the State, after a Cabinet decision recently, had launched the Rs.2-kg wheat scheme this May Day. The Government was particularly loud about the scheme as it thought both reducing the rate for wheat to BPL families from Rs.4.70 per kg to Rs.2 per kg and inclusion of the over 10 lakh State BPL-- till now without such an entitlement-- would bring accolades. “We are happy about the inclusion of this 10 lakh. However, this cannot be a reason for reduction in the entitlement of others. This will again amount to the diversion of subsidy from the Centre worth Rs.50 crores,” points out Kavita Srivastava, general secretary, Rajasthan, PUCL. “The Supreme Court order clearly states that no Government would restrict the entitlements without the permission from the apex court,” she adds.

The activists are quick to point out that even the entitlement of 35 kg had not been adequate. Citing testimonies of the National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, they say that an adult has been recommended a minimum of 14 kg cereal and a child, half of that, for maintaining the required calorie levels. This means that an average family of three grown ups and two children would require 56 kg grain per month.

“If you take a closer look the BPL families stand to lose with the present arrangement. The saving of Rs.67.50 they would have now –compared to paying at the previous rate of Rs.4.70 per kg—will go once they have to buy wheat at Rs.14 per kg from the market paying an additional Rs.93,” explains Mr. Khandelwal. This way in a month each of the BPL family would be forced to spend an additional Rs.25.50 on grains. The total amount required to be spent by these families would come to Rs.50.55 crore a year.

The groups point out that the country has enough grain stocks to feed both its rich and the poor. “The Government of India's Economic Survey talks about more than 400 lakh tonnes grains in FCI godown at present. By the time the rabi procurement gets completed the Government will have 600 lakh tonne grain stocks with it,” Ms.Srivastava, notes. The activists have threatened to launch an agitation from May 5, demanding the withdrawal of the decision.