When Prime Minister rendra Modi last year called upon the well-off to willingly forego their LPG subsidies, not many believed his appeal would work. After all, even if a consumer can afford to pay the market price for LPG cylinder, agreeing to do so would need a higher sense of social responsibility. But the PM’s appeal stirred the conscience of over 1 crore households in just a year alone. They surrendered their LPG subsidy so that needier households can avail of the benefit. It is rare indeed for beneficiaries to give up benefits they have been enjoying; when they do so, it indicates that social awareness and pride are taking root. And now, Assam food and civil supplies minister Rihon Daimary has made a similar appeal. He has called upon households with yearly income above Rs 1 lakh to give up subsidized rice. This they can do by surrendering their tiol Food Security cards. But there is a more serious issue here. It turns out that many well-to-do people bent rules to obtain these cards in the first place. The minister has therefore appealed to their conscience, that their act of surrender will help poor families avail of the government’s food security net. It needs be remembered that it is a great burden for the country to provide subsidized rice to two-third of its population. In Assam, the proportion of beneficiaries is larger, over 84 percent in the villages and 60 percent in urban areas. The Central government recently increased the allocation of subsidized rice to Assam by over 5 thousand tonnes to 1,35,479 tonnes per month. The allocation would have been substantially more, had it not been for massive irregularities in the State’s public distribution system. It allows bogus beneficiaries, fair-price shops and gram panchayat cooperatives to exploit the system. Efforts are on to digitalize the system and exclude the culprits. It is therefore high time that well-to-do people in the State voluntarily give up their beneficiary tag when it comes to subsidized rice. It is the wise thing to do, failing which they may be caught out. It is the right thing to do, for it can help the really needy keep hunger at bay.
Food for thought