Monday, 30th October 2017

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Free rice across the board making people lazy: Madras High Court

Ration benefits not restricted to families in the BPL category for political gains

By PTI in Chennai
  • Published 24.11.18, 2:38 AM
  • Updated 24.11.18, 9:54 AM
  • a min read
The Tamil Nadu government told Madras High Court (in picture) that Rs 2,110 crore had been spent on the distribution of free rice in 2017-18. Shutterstock

Madras High Court has suggested that free PDS rice be given only to families living below the poverty line, observing that the current practice of doling out the freebie across the board has turned the people “lazy”.

It said the government was obliged to provide the bare necessities like rice and other groceries to the poor, but noted that successive governments had extended the benefits to all ration card holders for the sake of political gain.

“Consequently, people began to expect everything for free from the government. As a result, they have become lazy, and migrant workers are being brought in for even menial work,” the bench of Justices N. Kirubakaran and Abdul Quddhose said.

The observations came on Thursday as the court heard a petition challenging the detention, under the Goondas Act, of a man accused of smuggling and selling PDS rice.

During the hearing, the Tamil Nadu government said that Rs 2,110 crore had been spent on the distribution of free rice in 2017-18.

The judges directed advocate-general Vijay Narayan to sound out the state government on whether the public distribution scheme could be amended to exclude all families that live above the poverty line.

In an interim order, the bench sought to know whether any survey had been conducted to identify BPL families and, if so, what their number was, how much rice they needed and what the value of this volume of rice was.

“This court is not against the distribution of rice to the really deserving, economically backward and poor people. However, it should not be given to people irrespective of their economic status,” it said.

It added that the Rs 2,000 crore the government spent annually on the scheme amounted to a “capital loss”, and that since this expenditure occurred every year it amounted to a “recurring capital loss”.

“If the scheme benefits people other than poor people/ BPL families, it would amount to unjustly enriching other people at the cost of the public exchequer,” the court said.

It directed the Tamil Nadu Civil Supplies Corporation to file its annual reports for the past 10 years and set the next hearing for November 30.