On the basis of an in-principle undertaking given by Food and Civil Supplies Minister Anoop Jacob to increase the commission of ration dealers on the sale of rice and wheat to Rs 2 per kg,the ongoing indefinite stir of 14,000
strong dealers was called off on Monday. The Minister has also assigned the Civil Supplies Corporation director to go into the feasibility of delivering consignments of sugar and wheat flour directly to ration retail shops. However,the demand of dealers for a monthly salary was rejected.
The proposal to hike the commission rate to a hefty Rs 2 per kg,up from 58 paise, will be subject to the approval of the Finance Department, followed by Cabinet approval. “The final hike will be probably less than what has been proposed. On door delivery of sugar and wheat flour consignments in ration shops, the final decision will be on the basis of the feasibility report,” the Minister said.
The Minister was lenient towards a hike,for he had a study report in hand stating that ration dealers were in dire straits for quite some time with expenses far exceeding their income from shops.
“I never said that the grievances of dealers are not genuine or the government will not address it. Many practical difficulties are there to run shops profitably. We were open to talks also. The stir launched on Saturday could have been avoided,” Anoop Jacob told Express.
“The functioning of ration shops will be normalised by Wednesday. The government is keen that people should get ration essentials without difficulties,” he said. An approximate 90,000 tonnes of rice is distributed in the state a month,in the BPL and APL categories under various schemes. On record,22,000 tonnes of wheat,4,100 tonnes of sugar and 6,000 tonnes of wheat flour are also routed every month through the Public Distribution System (PDS).
The Minister told the dealers’ delegation that the government cannot make any compromise on the guidelines and services in vogue for the functioning of ration shops,including maintaining a correct stock register and giving bills to consumers.
The stir had attained significance for reasons political also since it was spearheaded by Johny Nellore,chairman of Kerala Congress (Jacob) and Anoop Jacob was the lone MLA and Minister of the party. Johny Nellore was leading the stir,as the president of the Ration Dealers’ Association. The general perception was that the stir was also a fallout of the rift between the chairman and the Minister in the KC(Jacob) faction .
The difference of opinion between the duo is likely to come up in party forums though the stir remains withdrawn. Johny Nellore was however non-chalant.
“The ration dealers’ stir needn’t be discussed in the party. The dealers’ organisation will move on its course and the party will take another course,” he told mediapersons,while announcing the withdrawal of the stir after holding talks with the Minister.
“We don’t want to open a debate on this score in the party on our own. But if party members raise the issue,naturally we will be forced to address it,” he observed. It is an open secret that supporters of the Minister and the chairman in the party are also pitted opposite for sometime.
Meanwhile,it is understood that dealers were looking at the prospect of getting at least Rs 1.50 per kg as commission,and the higher demand for Rs 2 was based on experiences wherein the Finance Ministry often making cuts in whatever quantum of demand put forward. In 2012, the commission was hiked from 34 paise and finalised at 58 paise,while the demand was for a hike of 80 paise.