Accusing Akali leader Harsimrat Kaur Badal of misleading the Union Food Minister on this count, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Thursday categorically denied any delay in distribution of food grains received from GoI, saying the state had received less than 50% of the promised Dal, in the absence of which the wheat grains also could not be distributed, under the guidelines of the Centre itself.The Chief Minister was responding to a tweet by Union Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution Minister Ram Vilas Paswan, asking him to speed up the distribution of the rations received from the Government of India in the state.The Chief Minister pointed out that as per the Centre’s own directives, wheat and dal had to be distributed to the eligible beneficiaries during the lockdown/curfew, but the fact was that while the state already had sufficient quantities of wheat lying in its godowns, the Dal (Pulses) were not forthcoming from the central government. Incidentally, the state currently has 73 Lakh MT of wheat and 100 Lakh MT of rice of previous years lying in its godowns, to which the current crop of 135 MT wheat will be added. The Chief Minister said he had, in fact, been persistently following up with Paswan to expedite lifting of the grains to prevent them from rotting in the open, with storage facilities inadequate to take all of it. He reiterated his demand for the central government to expedite the lifting of the food grains to ensure that they do not go waste, especially at this critical time when millions of the poor across the country needed to be provided rations amid the Covid lockdown.
On the issue of the distribution of central food rations, the Chief Minister said that contrary to what Harsimrat, herself a Union Minister, had been claiming, the fact was that Punjab had received only about 2500 MT of the promised 10800 MT of Dal by 1st May, 2020. The state started distribution with this initial quantity of Dal and Wheat on May 1 itself, and distribution was currently in progress in 18 districts, he said.For the rest, to meet the immediate needs of the people struggling to survive amid the lockdown, the state government had already spent from its own budget to distribute 15 lakh food packets, with each containing 10 Kg wheat, 2 Kg Dal and 2 Kg sugar.Further, said Captain Amarinder, under NFSA, each beneficiary is given 5kg wheat per month, but in Punjab, the government distributes 6 months’ supply in one go, enabling every family member to get 30 kgs of wheat at a time. Since the last distribution under NFSA took place in February-March this year, with an average family of four receiving 120 kg of wheat, the immediate requirement was for Dal, which was supplied very late by the Government of India, and that too in limited quantity, he added.Unfortunately, in the absence of dal, even the central quota of wheat could not be distributed as the Depot holders could not call the same beneficiaries twice within 10-15 days to collect wheat and dal separately, as that would have aggravated the crowds outside the Ration depots, thus adversely impacting social distancing norms, the Chief Minister pointed out. The central government, said Captain Amarinder, should have ensured that the supplies of dal were made available to the state, for distribution along with the wheat. The Chief Minister urged Harsimrat to stop misleading the Centre and the people of Punjab with her unfounded claims and allegations, which were clearly aimed at the promoting the Akali interests. The Akalis had, in fact, been playing petty politics over the grave issue of the Covid for the past several weeks, without taking into cognisance the serious implications of such falsehoods and the impact these would have on the morale of the people, he added.