By Our Staff Reporter
Guwahati, March 12: Food and Civil Supplies minister Dr zrul Islam today admitted leaks in the State’s public distribution system and claimed that it is not possible to plug it completely.
“The leaks vary from 10 to 20 per cent at places. Though we have a system of vigilance, it is not possible to stop the leakage completely because of the wide network of the system,” Islam told the Assembly.
The Public Distribution System (PDS) launched in 1997 on the back of 72 lakh tonnes of foodgrains annually with its focus on six crore of the tion's very poor, was touted as the dawn of a new era for India's food security. But it has remained riddled with leaks, gobbling up nearly half the foodgrain routed through it.
According to the minister, there are over 35,000 fair price shops in the State besides thousands of cooperative societies and SKL hawkers. “Besides, there is also a shortage of manpower,” he said.
The minister sought to pass the buck to the people, saying that unless their “mentality” changes, this system can never be streamlined.
“We have vigilance committees which sit every three months. We are trying to bring down the level of leakage as much as possible,” he said.
Earlier, AGP legislator Keshav Mahanta alleged that PDS items were being smuggled out of the State. “Even the Union Food and Civil Supplies minister, during his recent visit to the State, did not rule out the possibility,” he said.
However, zrul Islam said that there was no concrete evidence regarding smuggling of PDS items. “There have been allegations that PDS items were being smuggled to Bangladesh. But official reports from the deputy commissioners and the BSF have never indicated this,” the Minister said.
On the Food Security Act, Dr Islam was apprehensive that the “Central government might not allow the State to implement it till the Assembly elections.”
“Technical hurdles are being put up one after another. It seems that we will not be allowed to implement the scheme till the elections,” the minister said.
Keshav Mahanta also took a dig at the State government on the issue of non-supply of sugar through the PDS. “The supply of sugar through PDS was stopped in 2013 when the Central government lifted the levy on it. The States were asked to purchase the sugar through a corporation. The States of West Bengal and Tripura have already set up the corporation and have resumed the sugar supply. Assam government is yet to make the corporation functiol,” Mahanta alleged.