The Congress government in Punjab is preparing to fulfil its four-year- old pre-poll promise of providing sugar and tea leaves under its atta-dal scheme, a year ahead of next Assembly polls.
The state government has been providing atta and dal to the beneficiaries of the scheme. The Congress party had promised the beneficiaries that it would also provide them tea leaves and sugar. But the government has not been able to fulfil its promise till now. With just a year left to go to the polls, the promise is being fulfilled.
Punjab Food and Civil Supplies Minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu, while addressing the media in Chandigarh on Monday, said that the department had sought Rs 760 crore from state’s Finance Department for extending the benefit of the scheme.
Commenting on the delay in fulfilling the promise, he said the government had set aside the funds for the scheme in last year’s budget but due to Covid pandemic, they were not able to extend the scheme. He said they would be providing the benefit from January 21 onwards. For the last three month quarter in the current fiscal, they have sought Rs 160 crore.
He said the government had distributed 15 lakh dry ration packets carrying 10 kg of atta, 2 kg sugar and 2 kg pulses to the needy and the migrant labourers during the lockdown. The state incurred an expenditure of Rs 78.2 crore from Chief Minister’s relief Fund.
Additionally, 2 lakh dry ration packets were also allotted to District Ludhiana for distribution to migrants/non-NFSA beneficiaries.
The Food and Civil Supply Minister said the government distributed 5 kg wheat per month to each NFSA beneficiary and 1 kg pulses per month to each family free of cost from April 2020 to November 2020 (eight months) under the Pradhan Mantri Gareeb Kalyan Anna Yojana.
Nearly 95 per cent beneficiaries have availed the benefit of the same. A total quantity of 5.35 lakh MT wheat and 27,516 MT urad whole/black channa has been distributed under this scheme. The migrants and non-NFSA beneficiaries were allocated 5 kg wheat per beneficiary and 1 kg pulses per family for two months free of cost.
He said in order to mitigate the hardships faced by migrants/non-NFSA beneficiaries, the state has decided to get the wheat allocated under the Atam Nirbhar Scheme grinded into flour. Each beneficiary was given 1 kg pulses free of cost. The total number of beneficiaries covered under this scheme was 14,14,400 i.e. 10 per cent of NFSA beneficiaries.
Ashu said that the government has initiated the process to fill 7,219 vacancies of ration depot holders out of which 6,232 vacancies are rural and 987 vacancies are urban. The licences shall be allotted online through RCMS portal (Ration Card Management System Portal) in order to promote efficiency and transparency.
He said that government has worked to create scientific storage space for wheat. The FCI granted approval for construction of Open Plinths storage capacity of 35 LMT.
Divulging about the other initiatives of his department, the Cabinet Minister stated that inter-state portability of ration distribution under One Nation One Ration Card Scheme has been implemented in the state under which migrants from other states, on arrival in Punjab, can avail their entitlement of ration from any ration depot of their choice.
Ashu said that the state government has taken many steps to reduce the gap in transportation charges. Tender process for transportation has been made competitive and transparent to increase participation by breaking cartelization of truck unions.
Talking about timely payment to farmers, he said: “We have been successful in ensuring the timely arrangement of funds for payment to farmers and other stake holders with effective coordination and liaison with the RBI, Ministry of Finance and the Consortium of Banks led by SBI.”
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