Blue card holders denied benefit for last four months; Civil Supplies Corp faces Rs 845-cr debt
It was touted as the scheme that helped the SAD-BJP coalition rewrite the revolving door political history of Punjab in the Assembly elections earlier this year. However,the nearly 15.50 lakh beneficiaries of the Atta-Dal Scheme have not received atta (flour) or dal (pulses) for the last four months.
Earlier,the government had switched from flour to wheat to meet the demand. But now,the Punjab State Civil Supplies Corporation Limited,which buys the foodgrains to be disbursed under the scheme,has not placed any order for pulses since April owing to a fund crunch.
Sources said the state had released only Rs 10 crore to the corporation for April and May against the required Rs 15 crore. The corporation is already facing a debt of Rs 845 crore as the government is yet to pay for pulses that it has been buying since 2007.
Sources added that the government has decided to pay Rs 450 crore to the corporation in equal instalments over the next 10 months. However,the corporation is still unsure of the fate of the remaining Rs 395 crore.
The corporation had been buying 3,100 tonnes of pulses every month from public sector undertakings,which import foodgrains under a Central scheme. However,the Centre discontinued the scheme from June 30 this year forcing the corporation to buy the pulses directly from the market,pushing up the procurement cost.
As per estimates,the corporation was buying black lentil from the PSUs at Rs 34 per kg (including transportation) and selling it to blue card beneficiaries at Rs 20 per kg. The Centre awarded it a subsidy of Rs 10 per kg. Thus the corporation faced a deficit of only Rs 4 per kg.
However,it will now have to shell out Rs 44 to buy a kilo of black lentil (including transportation) from the open market,thus spending Rs 24 per kg from its own resources. The corporations managing director,PS Shergill,said,We have sent a proposal to the state government for a policy decision on buying pulses for the scheme as the procurement prices have now gone up. We will be able to buy pulses once we get clear guidelines from the government.
Sources said that even if the corporation floats a tender to buy pulses,the beneficiaries will not be compensated for the last four months. Under the scheme,a beneficiary gets 2.5 kg of pulses and 20 kg wheat.
The corporation,meanwhile,has bought wheat worth Rs 190 crore to be distributed to the beneficiaries for one year.
The financial burden of the scheme would go up this time as the leading alliance partner SAD had promised to provide flour at Rs 2 per kg in its election manifesto. In its previous term,it had disbursed flour at Rs 4 per kg and pulses at Rs 20 per kg.