KERALA

Government expedites move to privatise ration sub-depots

ALAPPUZHA, JUNE 1. The widely acclaimed public distribution system (PDS) in the State is likely to witness basic changes in its structure in the near future with the UDF Government expediting its move to privatise the ration sub-depots run by the Kerala State Civil Supplies Corporation. Sources said the Government had already issued notification to privatise the 11 sub-depots directly run by the Corporation. The Corporation runs the sub-depots directly in Thiruvananthapuram, Kollam, Alappuzha, Ernakulam, Thrissur and Kozhikode districts.

The sub-depots proposed for privatisation included the Chala sub-depot in Thiruvananthapuram, the Kollam sub-depot with its godowns at Kollam Cantonment, Paravur and Asramam, the Alappuzha beach sub-depot, the Ernakulam sub-depot with its godowns at Chullikkal and Thripunithura, the Poonthol sub-depot in Thrissur and the Vellayil sub-depot in Kozhikode. Sources said the Government move was to divide the sub-depots first and then transfer it to different persons. In Thiruvana- nthapuram, six persons are in the fray to takeover the sub-depot, sources said. Similarly, in Kollam around 20 persons are in the fray.

Sources pointed out that there were more than hundred ration retail shops under each sub-depot and privatisation of the sub-depots would affect the availability of essential items to the retailers.

The 11 sub-depots originally belonged to the Food Corporation of India (FCI). The Corporation took over the sub-depots when the FCI stopped sub-depots in 1997. Meanwhile, the Kerala Civil Supplies Officers' Federation State committee said the move to privatise the ration sub-depots would have a detrimental effect on the public distribution system in the State. The committee said the privatisation move was not being carried out in a transparent manner. The move would result in loss of job to the workers at each sub-depots said the federation leaders.

They said the privatisation of sub-depots would affect the free availability of essential items and would even lead to steep rise in the prices of essential items. They opined that privatisation would be beneficial to black marketers. The federation leaders said while the Government argued that the sub-depots were running at a loss, it was forgetting the role of the public distribution system in the State which had ensured food grains and other essential items to the poor at reasonable rates. They said the federation had already moved the court to stay the Government proceedings.