After a gap of 20 months, and with an eye on the 2017 Assembly elections, the cash-strapped Punjab State government will resume the distribution of dal at subsidised rates to the beneficiaries of the ‘atta-dal’ scheme from January 2016.
The move follows other government sops that were announced recently including 1.14 lakh government jobs. The State has now set aside Rs 400 crore for dal at Rs 20 per kg to 15.20 lakh Below Poverty Line beneficiaries. The finance department has already sanctioned Rs 100 crore to the Food and Civil Supplies department, for distribution of dal for the first quarter of 2016.
Prices of dal have skyrocketed in recent months, and became an issue in the Bihar polls.
The government will distribute moong dal, part of the staple diet in Punjab, whose prices, unlike of arhar and urad, have been stable at Rs 120 per kg for the last two years, but high nonetheless.
Punjab Finance Minister Parminder Singh Dhindsa told The Indian Express that Rs 100 crore was already sanctioned for the dal to be distributed for three months from January to March.
“The beneficiaries will get their supply of dal from next month. We will ensure supply for the rest of the year and the remaining Rs 300 crore, required for the next three quarters, would be provided for in the state’s budget,” he said.
The last time the beneficiaries received supplies of dal was in March 2014, ahead of the Lok Sabha elections. After that, dal was not distributed. The government is silent on the 20-month backlog, which is unlikely to be cleared due to the fund-crunch.
Even wheat, supplied under the atta-dal scheme was distributed only in November this year after 10 months with retrospective effect to make up for the gap, as the government was busy weeding out ineligible beneficiaries. Former CLP leader Sunil Jakhar had raised the issue stating it was violation of the Food Security Act as the foodgrain should be supplied in advance for six months.
Under the scheme, the state provides wheat at Re 1 per kg and pulses at Rs 20 per kg to poor families. Punjab’s atta-dal scheme is touted as a ‘vote-catcher’ and is believed to have played a major role in SAD-BJP 2012 comeback. Started well before the previous UPA government’s Food Security Act, the atta-dal scheme has been further tweaked by the State after the FSA. The centre provides wheat for the poor at Rs 2 per kg. Punjab subsidises it further by Re 1 per kg.