Punjab fair price shop owners, who have been on a strike for over a month, today softened their demands and said they were ready for lesser quantum of remuneration for distributing subsidised foodgrains.
"We want to assist the government in distributing foodgrains to poor families and we are ready to negotiate on the monthly compensation. The state must offer us at least Rs 5,000-7,000 per month against our demand of Rs 20,000," Punjab Depot Holders Union president Gurjinder Singh Sidhu said here.
"We are ready to soften our stand. The state government should also soften its stand on the issue.... It should give us some sort of relief in the shape of commission as we do not have resources to distribute foodgrains under various schemes like Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY)," he said.
As many as 26,000 fair price shop owners in the state have been on the strike for more than one month, seeking just compensation for distributing subsidised foodgrains.
They had demanded Rs 20,000 per month as compensation for bearing administrative and transportation expenses to distribute ration under the state's new Atta-Dal scheme.
Sidhu said they had met Union Food Minister K V Thomas in Delhi a few days ago. "He told us that the Centre disburses the amount to states and it is responsibility of the states to pass it on to the actual beneficiaries," Sidhu added.
"We have been issued licenses to operate by the state government. And it is the responsibility of the state to address our issues," he said.
Under the food security scheme, the Centre said it would provide assistance to states in meeting expenditure incurred by them on transportation of foodgrains within the state, its handling and dealers' margin as per norms to be devised for this purpose.
Sidhu claimed that their strike had been very successful.
The Punjab government has proposed to distribute wheat under Atta-Dal scheme directly to the beneficiaries from grain markets from June, which will eliminate the need to have fair price shop owners in the state.