Calling the Central government’s directive to display signboards and flex boards with photographs of Prime Minister Narendra Modi at ration shops across Kerala an “election stunt”, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told the Kerala Assembly on February 12 (Monday) that the State government will inform the Union government of its decision to not implement the directive.
The government will also consider informing the Election Commission about the issue, he said, after making an intervention while Food and Civil Supplies Minister G.R. Anil was replying to questions related to the matter.
“The public distribution system and ration shops have existed in Kerala for long. But the Union government has now issued an unprecedented directive at a time when the Lok Sabha elections are nearing, surely with an intention to use this for campaigning. We will inform the Union government that we will not be implementing the directive, citing these issues,” said Mr. Vijayan.
Earlier, Mr. Anil told the House that the Union government had directed the Food Corporation of India (FCI) and the Food and Civil Supplies department to install flex boards featuring Mr. Modi in 10,000 ration shops and submit a report. It also directed that selfie points of the Prime Minister be set up in 550 ration shops. Carry bags with the Union government’s branding were also asked to be provided to the customers.
Bharat Rice distribution slammed
Mr. Anil also criticised the Union government’s move to distribute Bharat Rice at ₹29 per kg as a violation of federal principles.
He said the State government has been procuring food grains through the Open Market Sale Scheme (OMSS) from the FCI and providing it to customers at ₹24 per kg. However, the Union government blocked this market intervention effort by changing norms to prevent the State from purchasing through the OMSS. It then began distributing Bharat brand rice through other outlets, bypassing the State’s public distribution system and ration shops. The government has no way of checking whether all the deserving are getting the guaranteed amount of grains through these outlets, he said.
The Minister said that the Union government is providing food grains only to 43% of Kerala’s population under the Food Security Act. The State government is providing grains at subsidised rates for the remaining 57%, he said.