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Move to provide cash instead of foodgrains in Delhi questioned

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

A group of activists led by Arvind Kejriwal today raised questions about Delhi government's move to provide cash instead of subsidised foodgrains for the poor, suspecting that the survey conducted ahead of the rolling out of the project was not genuine.

"Why is Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit taking so much interest in the scheme? Why is she hell bent upon closing down PDS shops? Is the Chief Minister doing it on her own or is she being forced to do this," RTI activist Kejriwal told reporters here.

He said it was "ironical" that on one hand, Sonia Gandhi- led National Advisory Council has drafted a Food Security Act that promises 35 kg of subsided foodgrains to the poor while on the other, Congress government in Delhi claims to be implementing a Planning Commission project to close down all PDS shops and give cash instead.  

A delegation of activists of an NGO 'Parivartan' met Dikshit yesterday to urge her not go ahead with the project that has already been rolled out on a pilot basis in west Delhi's Raghubir Nagar. A survey conducted by SEWA had claimed that 60 per cent of the 150 families surveyed said they want cash instead of ration.

However Santosh Koli of 'Parivartan' claimed the survey was "doubtful".

She claimed that 'Ration Vyawastha Sudhar Abiyaan' - a group of NGOs which also has Parivartan as its member - had surveyed 593 families and found that majority of people are against this scheme. 

She also alleged some people attempted to obstruct them while carrying out the survey. Koli claimed that Dikshit told them that the government was going ahead with the scheme as per the direction of the Planning Commission.

Kejriwal claimed that RTI replies have shown that World Bank representatives regularly attend meetings of the Planning Commission called on this issue and similarly UNDP persons are present in full strength in Delhi government meetings. "What is the role of the World Bank and the UNDP?" he asked. 

The World Bank has in its latest report said India's public distribution system has limited benefits due to "huge leakage" and wastage and recommended cash transfer as an alternative to provide subsidised food for the poor. UNDP also had suggest similar measure.

He argued that cash system will not work as the money given to the poor might be misused for buying liquor and the scheme will further increase corruption as money will be pocketed by those who will run this system. The RTI activist also claimed that the new scheme is "inflation insensitive" and in absence of PDS, there will be no control over food grain prices.

First Published: Thu, May 19 2011. 16:09 IST