Reiterating her view that until the Centre brings in amendments to all vital shortcomings in the Food Security Act to rectify them, the law would remain detrimental to the people of Tamil Nadu, Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa on Saturday rubbished the claim of DMK president M Karunanidhi that the Act would reduce the financial burden of the State government to a significant extent.
The Chief Minister also said the people of Tamil Nadu would understand that Karunanidhi had supported the Act only for selfish gains and had resorted to doublespeak. “After supporting a Bill that empowers the Central government to bring in amendments in all clauses of the legislation without getting the approval of Parliament, Karunanidhi is now trying to justify his act. This is nothing but the height of deception,” she charged.
“At present, the Tamil Nadu government is supplying 3.20 lakh tonnes of rice through the Public Distribution System, i.e., 38.40 lakh metric tonnes per annum. Even if the Centre provides 36.78 lakh metric tonnes of rice under the Act, the State government has to buy 1.62 lakh metric tonnes of rice from open market. As such, even if the Centre supplies rice at Rs 3 per kg for BPL families and at Rs 8.30 per kg for the rest, the financial burden for Tamil Nadu government will not come down,” the Chief Minister said in a statement.
Referring to Karunanidhi’s remark that Tamil Nadu would get 28.54 lakh tonnes of rice per annum at Rs 3 per kg, the Chief Minister said, “this is totally contradictory to truth.” The DMK chief has mistaken the number of families under the Antyodaya Anna Yojana Scheme with the number of persons and confused himself. Even Union Food Minister K V Thomas had said that Tamil Nadu would get only 24 lakh tonnes of rice on priority.
After her consistent pressure, the Centre had agreed to provide 36.78 lakh metric tonnes of rice to Tamil Nadu for PDS supply, through an in an amendment in the Bill, she said. However, rice would be provided at Rs 3 per kg only for BPL families, she pointed out. Recalling another remark of Karunanidhi that the Union food minister promised to provide rice at Rs 8.30 per kg for APL families through his letter to DMK Parliamentary party leader T R Baalu, the Chief Minister said: “no one could accept an oral assurance instead of bringing in an amendment to the legislation.”
When AIADMK Parliamentary party leader M Thambidurai asked about the price of the rice for APL families, the Union food minister promised to bring an amendment at the time of passage of the Bill but it did not happen. “The Central government can unilaterally change anything that is not part of the legislation. On the contrary, if the promise on the price of rice for APL families is part of the legislation, only Parliament can change it. How come a five-time CM Karunanidhi failed to understand this? He deliberately hid this fact and to divert the attention of the people, said that the Centre had agreed to provide 6.97 lakh metric tonnes of rice at Rs 8.30 per kg,” she said.
Jayalalithaa further said the UPA government at the Centre had no intention to supply rice at Rs 8.30 per kg continuously. It would do so only for a few months, she alleged and sought to drive home her point in the light of the discussion that took place in Rajya Sabha. When AIADMK MP V Maitreyan posed a question about the price of the rice, the Union Minister said: “It is a Cabinet decision. Do you want much more than that? I have got the document with me. We have not included it because APL is always linked to Minimum Support Price (MSP).” Jayalalithaa said the pulse of the Centre and its thought current could be gauged from the wishy washy reply of the Union minister.
She further observed that the allotment of kerosene had gradually come down from 59,780 kilo litres to 29,060 kilo litres per month. “Similarly, if the quantum of supply of rice is not guaranteed in the legislation, the Centre will reduce the supply in due course,” she said.