People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
October 21, 2007
'Increase Allocations To Bengal Immediately'
CPI(M) Polit Bureau member and MP Brinda Karat has sent the following letter on October 11, 2007 to union minister for agriculture, consumer affairs, food and public distribution, Sharad Pawar, regarding supplies of foodgrains for APL card holders in some areas of West Bengal.
YOU may have read press reports about the current problems in some areas of West Bengal concerning supplies of foodgrains for APL card holders in the Public Distribution System (PDS). While there may be local factors at play in some of the areas, including leakages in the system, the main reason for the current shortages in West Bengal is the huge cuts in allocations in foodgrains in both rice and wheat for APL cardholders.
I have been given to understand that the rice allocation till March 2007 was 2.29 lakh tonnes per month. In April 2007, this allocation was slashed to just 7,700 tonnes, that is just 3.36 per cent of the earlier monthly allocation. In April 2007, the wheat allocation was halved to 49,040 tonnes from 98,112 tonnes the previous year. The allocation to the districts has therefore had to be drastically reduced. In Birbhum for example where there have been shortages, the monthly allocation that was 10,000 tonnes has had to be cut to less than one tenth. Since open market prices of foodgrains are high, APL cardholders find APL prices much more affordable and therefore a demand for foodgrains from the PDS increases. However, since allocations have been cut, the APL cardholders are unable to get the quotas they are entitled to. It is precisely in anticipation of such problems that we have been requesting the central government to stop these huge cuts in allocations. You will kindly refer to my letter of July 20, 2006 in which some of these problems had been raised. Undoubtedly, the issue of pilferage has to be dealt with, but such drastic measures as being taken by central government, punish the poor which include a large number of APL card holders, for fault of theirs.
The West Bengal government has requested you through their various communications to increase the allocations to the state. May I request you to kindly do so on urgent and immediate basis, more so since it is the Puja festival time in West Bengal.
The following is the text of the July 20, 2006 letter written by Brinda Karat to Sharad Pawar on this issue.
I WOULD like to draw your kind attention to certain problems that have arisen in the matter of allocation of wheat to West Bengal for the APL/ PDS. These problems concern (1) cuts in allocation quotas (2) resultant impact on supply of wheat to districts and lack of stocks at district level (3) low stocks in FCI godowns (4) problems because of FCI policy such as delays in supply of stock leading to monthly quota lapse etc. (5) lack of FCI network in districts which makes it difficult for areas without FCI godowns to lift the stock due to distances (6) not maintaining the district level requirement of stocks etc. (7) contradictory reports of central government regarding “leakages” in West Bengal PDS on the basis of which wrong assessments are made of West Bengal requirements.
One of the justifications for the cuts in allocations is the low offtake of wheat for APL which is estimated at around 48 per cent. It would be wrong to conclude that APL card holders do not require the wheat. On the contrary there are many problems primarily the low quantities of wheat available so as to make it unviable for APL card holders to spend the money and the time to reach the ration shop for a meager amount. These issues also need to be discussed. If there are problems at the state level these also must be addressed.
There are some other issues also as for example those concerning procurement and rates for rice from West Bengal
These issues need to be discussed with the concerned officials at the centre and state. I would request you to direct concerned central food department officials and FCI to hold such a meeting with officials from the food department in West Bengal. If the issues remain unresolved I would request you at that point to personally intervene as you had done on an earlier occasion.