Ration shops may become super markets

By Our Special Correspondent

CHENNAI MAY 9. The 27,886 ration shops in Tamil Nadu may turn into plush supermarkets selling all commodities under one roof at fair prices for the poor.

If the Food Minister, P. Dhanabal's assurance in the Assembly today becomes a reality, ration shops will no longer be mere dilapidated outlets vending only rice, kerosene and sugar. They may metamorphose into modern supermarkets offering all essential commodities at nominal rates.

The Minister's assurance came in response to the AIADMK member, C. Sivasamy's plea for sale of all essential items through the PDS shops. As of now, the Government sells, apart from rice, kerosene and sugar, Ooty tea and iodised salt at nominal prices.

During question hour this morning, MLAs, cutting across party lines, came up with an array of complaints about the functioning of the PDS shops.

While the Tamil Maanila Congress member, K. Kandasamy, alleged underweighment particularly of kerosene, the DMK member and former Minister, T.Pitchandi, said some shops forced cardholders to buy Ooty tea and maida to get subsidised rice.

The AIADMK member, P.K.Sekar Babu, said cardholders in some shops were given only 12 kg of raw rice and for the remaining quantum boiled rice was supplied.

Replying, the Minister said the Government hoped to resolve the problem of underweighment by opening more kerosene bunks.

However, it would be difficult to implement the Legislative Committee recommendation of providing kerosene in cans, as it would increase the financial burden on the Government, which was reeling under a Rs. 1500-crore subsidy.

The Minister clarified that the Government had instructed the PDS staff to issue raw rice to all 1.36 crore cardholders out of the 1.60 crores in the State at Rs. 3.50 per kg without any curb. If specific complaints were brought to the notice of the Government, action would be initiated against the erring staff.

As for the Legislative Committee recommendations on PDS reforms, the Minister said the Government was considering the various suggestions.

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