PUDUCHERRY: The turf war in Puducherry has intensified, with the Chief Minister, V Narayanasamy moving the Madras High Court challenging the order of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), and Lt Governor Kiran Bedi on distribution of cash in lieu of free rice. The High Court has agreed to hear the writ plea next week.
After assuming power in 2016, the Congress government decided to provide free rice as per its poll promises. Addressing a press conference on Friday, the CM said that the decision was taken after the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution accepted the government’s plan to distribute of free rice to the UT residents. He also said that the Ministry assured him that if he sends the proposal in this regard, the ministry would “grant approval” immediately.
When the file with regard to this was sent to the L-G, Bedi refused to accept the proposal and insisted cash should be directly credited to the account of the beneficiary, said the CM. But when the government insisted, the L-G forwarded the file to the MHA and the ministry passed an order contradictory to the Union Food and Public Distribution ministry.
Narayanasamy said that it is the “prerogative” of the elected government to decide the welfare schemes for its people. He further said that if there is any “irregularities in the procurement of rice” and “lack of quality”, then the action should be taken against the officials responsible for the procurement.
He said that the neighbouring States like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka were providing free rice and the MHA has not been apprised properly the L-G in this regard.
What Petition says?
According to petitioner, in furtherance of its poll promises during 2016 Assembly elections, the government had passed a resolution on June 7, 2019 to continue the welfare scheme of providing the items in kind and referred the same to Union Home Ministry on September 5. However, the ministry differed and advised the government to continue the scheme with Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) (cash) scheme in lieu of distribution of free rice. Not stopping with this, the Administrator (Bedi) also passed an interim order that rice will not be supplied in kind, but the benefit will only be by DBT mode. Accordingly, cash is being credited. Finally in December, the Union Home Affairs Ministry passed an order, answering the reference, by issuing an advisory to the Union Territory to continue with DBT (cash) scheme in lieu of distribution of free rice under Puducherry State Free Rice Scheme.