50 lakh more people included in Antyodaya scheme
The government recently claimed that an additional 50 lakh people below the poverty line would be brought under the Antyodaya Anna Yojana. The subsidy burden for the project is expected to be Rs 2,640 crore; the total food subsidy bill will now stand at Rs 24,000 crore.
The government’s decision comes against the backdrop of prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee’s decision to discuss the `faulty’ Public Distribution System (PDS) at an all-party meeting.
According to Union minister for food and consumer affairs, Sharad Yadav, 35 kg of foodgrain will be provided at a subsidised rate under the Antyodaya scheme. Wheat will cost Rs 2 per kg while rice will cost Rs 3 per kg.
So far, about one crore people have benefited from this scheme that is aimed at the `poorest of the poor’. The expanded scheme will now cover 23% of an estimated 6.52 crore BPL (Below the Poverty Line) families in the country.
After being criticised by members of the opposition in India’s upper house of Parliament for lapses in the PDS resulting in “malnutrition and hunger deaths,” Yadav replied that the Antyodaya Anna Yojana would now cover the most vulnerable sections of society such as old people, widows, disabled persons without families or societal support and the destitute.
Opposition members pressed for a meeting of state chief ministers to discuss the PDS policy being pursued by the Centre. Yadav said he would request the prime minister to convene a meeting, as the distribution of subsidised foodgrain to the poor was the joint responsibility of the Centre and the states.
Yadav took note of members’ concern over diversions, recycling and corruption in the PDS delivery system but, he said, the system was 80% functional. He said the system had to be reviewed and monitored from time to time and claimed his ministry had set up a task force for this.
Source: The Hindu
May 1, 2003