Bedi impeding free rice scheme implementation: Pondy CM

Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanasamy. File photo

Puducherry Chief Minister V Narayanasamy on Thursday charged Lt Governor Kiran Bedi with "impeding" implementation of the cabinet decision to distribute rice to card holders under free rice scheme.

Replying to a query by Independent MLA V Ramachandran during question hour in the Assembly, Narayanasamy said, "the cabinet had taken a decision that card holders be distributed rice every month." "However, the Lt Governor had been obstructing the enforcement of the scheme by insisting that only cash be granted instead of rice to card holders," he alleged. Under the scheme, 20 kg rice was distributed initially for all families holding either yellow or red colour ration cards.

The quantum was reduced to 15 kg for families falling under BPL category (red colour card holders) while 5 kg were decided for APL families (yellow colour card holders). Narayanasamy further alleged the Lt Governor was sticking to her stand that card holders should be granted only cash equivalent to quantum of rice contemplated under the free rice scheme through bank accounts.

But the cabinet was insisting that only rice should be issued and no cash payment would be acceptable, Chief Minister said. Opposition AIADMK MLA A Anbalagan wanted to know for how many months since the present government assumed office in 2016 was rice distributed to the card holders.

Welfare Minister M Kandasamy claimed that because of Bedi's "negative stand" the scheme was suffering hiccups and could not be implemented regularly every month. "We could distribute free rice so far for 17 months only while cash payment was made under DBT system for five months," he noted. "Although around Rs 120 crores had been earmarked under free rice scheme, the consent of the Lt Governor was necessary as the amount exceeded the financial powers of the Chief Minister," Kandasamy added.

He suggested that all the MLAs of the Union Territory meet the Lt Governor to insist her to sanction approval for the cabinet decision paving the way for distribution of rice. Intervening, Anbalagan (AIADMK) said, "our party legislators would not turn up for the meeting. Both the Lt Governor and the government are staging a drama taking the people for a ride in the free rice scheme." He then walked out of the House with three other members of the party, charging the government with "failing" the people in free rice scheme. Later, they returned to the House.

Earlier, replying to a question by Selvaganapathy of BJP on implementation of GST, the Chief Minister said it has caused a set back to the availability of revenue to the territorial government. He also said when VAT was in force, the government had netted Rs 150 crores. But, in the wake of the enforcement of the GST, the revenue had fallen to Rs 70 crores, he claimed.

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