Lieutenant-Governor gives in-principle approval for distribution of free rice through PDS outlets

Published - June 26, 2024 12:37 am IST - PUDUCHERRY

A view of the closed ration shop at Nanamedu near Thavalakuppam in Puducherry.

A view of the closed ration shop at Nanamedu near Thavalakuppam in Puducherry. | Photo Credit: S.S. KUMAR

The ration shops in Puducherry may become alive once again after more than five years as Lieutenant-Governor C. P Radhakrishnan has taken a favourable stand on the Cabinet’s decision to distribute free rice through the Public Distribution System (PDS) outlets instead of transferring money to the bank accounts of the beneficiaries.

A government source said the Lieutenant-Governor has given an in-principle approval to the fresh proposal put up before him by Chief Minister N. Rangasamy, which sought his nod for the distribution of rice through ration shops.

“After the Model Code of Conduct (MCC) for Lok Sabha polls was lifted, the Chief Minister submitted a file seeking the approval of the Lieutenant-Governor, who has now given in-principle approval. Now, we have to work out the modalities to reopen the ration shops and put in place a mechanism for the procurement of rice following all the guidelines,” an official told The Hindu.

Ration shops in the Union Territory became dysfunctional in 2019 following differences of opinion between the then Lieutenant-Governor Kiran Bedi and the previous government, which was headed by Congress leader V. Narayanasamy, on several administrative matters, including the execution of the government’s free rice scheme.

Ms. Bedi was not in favour of the distribution of rice through the PDS outlets following complaints on the quality of rice supplied and issues with procurement. As differences of opinion emerged between the titular head and the elected government, the subject was referred to the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA).

Following the advice of MHA to adopt the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) mode for Puducherry’s free rice distribution scheme, the Congress government, after raising strong objection, agreed for the cash transfer mode in lieu of rice. Since then, around 430 ration shops in the Union Territory have remained closed, with the workers of the PDS outlets and various political parties staging protests demanding the reopening of the shops.

After the AINRC-BJP government came to power in 2021, Mr. Rangasamy had also approached the then Lieutenant-Governor Tamilisai Soundararajan to revert to the old pattern of distribution of rice instead of cash transfer. However, the DBT method for free rice scheme continued for want of approval.

The urgency shown by the Chief Minister in seeking the renewal of the scheme immediately after the polls is due to the feedback he had received during the election campaign. During the campaign trail, the Chief Minister was put on the spot when people openly complained about the difficulties they faced due to the closure of ration shops. The Chief Minister had assured the voters of a solution to the issue. The Puducherry government incurs an annual expenditure of around ₹ 200 crore for the free rice scheme.

“Now, we don’t think the subject has to be again referred to the MHA as the Lieutenant-Governor and Cabinet are on the same page on this issue. Only when there is a difference of opinion on a particular subject, the MHA opinion has to be sought. We hope a decision will be taken at the earliest so that the rice and other essential items could be distributed through PDS outlets,” said a ruling party member.

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