Acting on the directive of the Supreme Court to make foodgrains freely available to the poor rather than letting them rot, the government on Thursday decided to release an extra 2.5 million tonnes of grains to states for distribution among the poor - but it will not be free.
"As an interim ad-hoc measure, pending a final decision on the issue, the government is releasing an additional quantity of 2.5 million tonnes of wheat and rice to the states at a BPL (below poverty line) price for next six months," agriculture and food supply minister Sharad Pawar told reporters after a meeting of an Empowered Group of Ministers.
The meeting of the EGoM headed by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee came two days after the Supreme Court slammed Pawar for calling the court's 12 August order on the issue a suggestion. It was an order and not a suggestion, the apex court clarified.
The meeting reportedly deferred a decision on increasing the price of sugar and food grains sold through ration shops, an issue that has been hanging fire for a long time.
On 12 August, the court had orally observed that the government should ensure free distribution of foodgrains to the poor instead of letting them rot. However, in the written order the court said, "The government shall supply food grains to poor at low cost or no cost."
Pawar said after Thursday's meeting that "The government is considering an overhaul of PDS (public distribution system), including upgrading the number of eligible BPL families. This is expected to increase the number of BPL families eligible for assistance and corresponding increase in allocation by the central government."