TN Minister refutes charge on PDS items distribution

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Chennai, Jan 7 (UNI) Tamil Nadu Food Minister E V Velu today joined issue with Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram over the latter's charge that 36 per cent of ration items supplied by the Centre for the Public Distribution System (PDS) did not reach the people in the State.

Addressing a party meeting in Madurai recently, Mr Chidambaram had alleged that not even half the quantity of subsidised food items supplied from the Central pool to the state for PDS reached the ration shops and partymen should not hesitate to stage demonstrations in front of the shops.

Reacting to this, Mr Velu said in a statement here that the Union Minister was obviously referring to the 2005 year report released by the Central Planning Commission to this effect. However, in respect of Tamil Nadu, the report said 15.66 per cent of food items did not reach the people, while it was 81 per cent in Bihar and 76.50 per cent in Punjab.

Tamil Nadu was listed as one of the ''low leakage'' states in the report and after the DMK came to power, Chief Minister M Karunanidhi had instructed to take stern action against those involved in smuggling ration items. After the government initiated action, 78,451 fake ration cards were eliminated and electronic weighing machines were provided to ration shops to ensure right weighing.

In the last one and a half year, 112 people were arrested under the Prevention of Smuggling Activities Act and five others under the Goondas Act for smuggling ration rice, Mr Velu said.

He said that if Mr Chidambaram pointed out specific shortcomings in the PDS, the government was willing to look into it and take action. When the government was taking all steps to prevent smuggling of ration rice and plug leakage, the Union Minister, who was in a responsible position, should not level such charges, he added.

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