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Supreme Court to deal with leaky public distribution system sternly

A bench of Dalveer Bhandari and KS Radhakrishnan was hearing a PIL by PUCL seeking direction to states to ensure that the poor get food at cheap rates as a fundamental right.

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The Supreme Court (SC) vowed on Tuesday to devise a mechanism to deal with states stonewalling its notice regarding corruption in the public distribution system (PDS) and not responding to People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL).

A bench of Dalveer Bhandari and KS Radhakrishnan was hearing a PIL by PUCL seeking direction to states to ensure that the poor get food at cheap rates as a fundamental right.

Colin Gonsalves, counsel for PUCL, submitted the extracts from the justice DP Wadhwa panel report which said corruption in PDS “has assumed cancerous proportions and needs surgical operation”.

The panel dwelt upon the routing of subsidised food for the poor to the coffers of corrupt. Raw food stuff worth Rs28,000 crore meant for the aam aadmi through the government's ailing public distribution network across the country has become the diet for a corrupt administration, the report said.

The report that examined the malaise in making the “food for all” scheme a failure said at least 1.5 crore households admittedly paid bribe last year to get new and legitimate ration cards. Getting a ration card has become a Herculean task. At least 50% of the consumers, harassed by negligent food department officers, bribe to get a ration card.

States with higher poverty indices have higher corruption indices too. About 67% ration card-holders were denied food from PDS.
Among the 15 states that have replied to the SC notice are Gujarat, Haryana, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and the Delhi Development Authority. In the next hearing, the court will deal with the issue of homeless people and streetchildren.

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