The Supreme Court Tuesday pulled up union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar for saying that the court had only made a suggestion and not passed an order on distributing foodgrain “free” to the poor.
Referring to media reports attributed to Pawar wherein he said that the court only made a suggestion Aug 12 and the government would consider it, an apex court bench of Justice Dalveer Bhandari and Justice Deepak Verma told Additional Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran: “Tell your minister not to make any such comment.”
The court said: “What we have said is an order and not a suggestion. Let him not misunderstand our order.”
Taking note of the existence of more than 2.5 lakh bogus ration cards in the country, the court said: “We have to develop a culture of zero tolerance towards corruption.”
The court said that unless immediate and urgent steps were taken, the ultimate effect will be on the poorest citizen who is deprived of legitimate entitlement to foodgrains.
“We must ensure that every poor person is ensured of two square meals per day,” the court said.
The court said that it was desirable to abolish the Above Poverty Line (APL) category.
In case, this was not possible, the government should at least consider limiting it to households whose annual income is less than Rs.2 lakhs per year.
The court said that it did not see any “rationale or justification” in providing subsidised food to card holders whose annual income is more than Rs.2 lakhs.
The court asked the central government to carry out fresh survey to get the correct and comprehensive picture of the people below poverty line (BPL), above poverty line (APL) and beneficiaries of the Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY). The court said that the survey should be conducted as early as possible.
This would give a “clearer picture of the targeted population in the categories of APL, BPL and AAY”.
The court said: “It would be desirable to make allocation according to 2010 population estimates.”
A court commissioner in his report informed the court that 50,000 metric tonnes of wheat has already deteriorated in government warehouses and was not fit for human consumption.
He also told the court that several lakh metric tonnes of wheat that had been procured has not been properly stocked.
Taking note of the report, the court asked the central government to tell it what steps have been taken to save the remaining wheat procured by it but has not been property stocked.