CHANDIGARH: Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh on Saturday announced a separate state-funded scheme to provide subsidized rations to the nine lakh beneficiaries not covered under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), as he launched the Smart Ration Card scheme to cover 1.41 crore beneficiaries across the state. The total number of beneficiaries in the state empowered to get their quota of foodgrains from any ration depot in the state will thus go up to 1.50 crore.
Under the Smart Ration Card Scheme, 37.5 lakh cards will be distributed to eligible beneficiaries this month. Amarinder said the Centre had capped the maximum number of beneficiaries to 1.41 crore and despite repeated requests had not agreed to provide subsidized rations to the deserving nine lakh people not covered under NFSA. His government had therefore decided to cover all such left out eligible persons under a state-funded scheme, details of which will be announced shortly.
Launching the Smart Ration Card scheme virtually, he said it would help curb corruption and give beneficiaries the freedom to buy from any depot. Describing it as a major step towards empowering people, he said it will end the exploitation of beneficiaries by unscrupulous ration depot holders.
The Chief Minister lashed out at the BJP-led central government for attempting to destroy the spirit of Punjab’s farmers, who have toiled for the country and fed the nation, through the farm ordinances. These ordinances are aimed at ending the MSP regime and will hit the farmers hard, he said.
In a symbolic gesture, he handed over the smart ration cards to four beneficiaries here at the Secretariat, after which all ministers and MLAs distributed cards in their respective districts and constituencies.
Referring to the SYL issue, Amarinder said it was another problem Punjab was facing and while he had recently had one meeting with the Union Water Resources Minister and his Haryana counterpart, the problem continues to haunt the state. Pointing to the melting glaciers and the receding ground water level in the state, he said the situation was critical and the state simply could not afford to give any water to other states.
Earlier, Punjab Minister of Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs Bharat Bhushan Ashu pointed out that the state government, in line with its promise to make the system transparent, had already introduced e-POS system to check pilferage. The smart cards will enable beneficiaries to take ration from any shop, thus ending the monopoly of the depots. Bio-metrics of the card holder will be matched with the data stored in a chip on the smart ration card to prevent any fraudulent transfer of food grains. One card will suffice for the entire family.