After Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal’s tirade against the Punjab government, alleging it was not distributing food grains received from the Centre under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY), Union Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan and Punjab Food Minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu locked horns over the issue.
While Paswan tweeted his displeasure, claiming that Punjab had extended the benefit to only 1 per cent of beneficiaries, Ashu hit out at Centre alleging that the state had received pulses (dal) for April only on May 1, after which they had started distributing the ration. “I have a question to Paswan ji. Why was the dal mean for the month of April sent to the state on May 1?” he tweeted.
Under the scheme, as many as 1.4 crore people in Punjab, almost half of its population, are to be given free ration for three months, in addition to their monthly PDS entitlement.
In his tweet, Paswan urged Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh to expedite the distribution. He said that of the 70,725 metric tonnes of grain to be distributed in the state, it was given to 1.38 lakh people — just 1 per cent of the total beneficiaries.
Ashu, on the other hand, accused Paswan of working at the behest of Harsimrat. “Why do not you understand? He is saying all this because Akalis would have asked him to do so. They are trying to reclaim their lost political space in Punjab amid a pandemic. This says so much about them,” he hit back.
He asked Paswan, “Why is it that out of 10,000 MT dal sanctioned for us, we have got only 4,000 MT yet? That too in the second month? They should answer.”
A senior official of the state government said that while the wheat was received by the state last month, it was not distributed as the government kept waiting for the dal. “If wheat was distributed, then the funds crunched state would have had to spend double the amount of money on distribution. We kept waiting. They delayed the dal,” the official added.
Amid the war of words between state and Centre, the beneficiaries, who were to be supplied with 15 kg wheat and 3 kg dal, remained without the benefit for a month during the lockdown.
Ashu said, “We have already distributed 800 MT dal in one week. Of 117 Assembly segments, the distribution has started in 60 segments in the state. We will be done with the distribution in 15 days.”
He further said, “Our department is out on the roads for procurement. It is going to be a month. But they are not even called Corona warriors even though they are also risking their lives. Now, they will be distributing these supplies. Do we have so much of time that they can go to 1.4 crore beneficiaries twice? The staff has been working 15-16 hours everyday. I want to ask the Centre how they can find fault with our department when we are sending 30 trains full of grain everyday to other parts of the country?”
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