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States to blame, says NCP chief Sharad Pawar

Pulled up by the Supreme Court over the issue of distribution of food grain, Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar sought to shift the blame to the states.

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Pulled up by the Supreme Court over the issue of distribution of food grain, Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar sought to shift the blame to the states.

“We are the procurers of the food grains, the task of distribution is done by the state governments,” he told the Lok Sabha. Agitated members had sought an explanation from the minister over the apex court’s observation. Pawar, however, said the government would honour the decision of the court.

Many in the government agree with the agriculture minister on the issue. When it comes to the functioning of the public distribution system, the ball lies in the courts of the state governments, said an official.   

“The central government’s role is limited to assisting the procurement of food grain and distributing it among the states. The states have the authority and wherewithal to supply food grain to people at whatever they price they choose,” he added.

There are states that supply rice and wheat at Rs2 per kg, and the central government, too, is mulling a food security system to ensure availability of food grain at a very low price. But the issue is caught in a tangled web of complex factors that range from varying estimates of the people below the poverty line to the number of bogus ration cards that flood the market.

“May be the minister had these problems in mind when he asserted a week ago that the Supreme Court’s order cannot be implemented,” the official said. But now with the apex court’s reassertion of intent, the situation could change.

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