Discussions of the Maharashtra cabinet on Tuesday to decide on foodgrain subsidies, which the state government had discontinued for 1.77 crore people, and the allocation of one lakh solar-powered pumps to farmers were stuck by certain numbers to be figured out.
The ministers felt that a more detailed discussion was needed to address certain anomalies, and to fix financial allocations accordingly.
Officials said it looked like allocations would have to be further ramped up. The 1.77 crore beneficiaries, who had breached the below-poverty-line mark and are above the poverty line, would eventually get the food subsidy though the numbers need verification.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis reiterated that food subsidy and solar-powered pumps being a government commitment to beneficiaries will certainly be implemented.
“There is some ambiguity on the budget… on whether additional allocations of Rs 1,200 crore would be needed or Rs 2,400 crore. Whether they should include just 1.77 crore beneficiaries or some numbers need to be verified again,” said a source in the civil supplies department that runs the PDS
Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar was positive about implementation. “Budgetary constraints are not an issue. It is our government’s commitment to people and we are bound to fulfill it in the coming week.”
Another major decision pertains to installation of one lakh solar-powered water pumps. Energy Minister Chandrashekar Bawankule said, “Today, we did not take up the matter for discussion as some details are being worked out in the proposal. However, we are certainly going ahead with the solar pump.”
In December 2013, the Prithviraj Chavan-led Congress and NCP government, ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, decided to bring the 1.77 people under PDS.
They had been left out of the centre-sponsored Food Security Act. Since it was an election year, the Chavan government overlooked the financial implications of the decision. PDS officials said, “There are 8.77 crore beneficiaries in Maharashtra. The Centre had given its consent for only 7 crore. As a result, the state government brought the remaining 1.77 crore people under subsidy cover for foodgrains by taking up the financial burden.”
The APL beneficiaries have an annual income of Rs 59,000 (urban) and Rs 44,000 (rural areas).