Himachal Food Subsidy Bill To Exceed Budgetary Provisions

Shimla: With the food subsidy bill touching Rs 14 crore per month, the Himachal government is finding it hard to contain it within budgetary limits as the provision made is that of Rs 90 crore only.

Highly placed government sources revealed that the subsidized food scheme was fast turning into a major burden on the exchequer.

By the end of the year the bill would exceed Rs 160 crore against a budget provision of Rs 90 crore, said a top official of the food and civil supplies department.

Meanwhile the government has launched a special drive to check illegal and fake ration cards.

Soaring food prices in the open markets has sent people scurrying to make ration cards as they are the passports for obtaining subsidized rations made available through the public distribution system.

At a review meeting today, chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal revealed that there were 14.44 lakh ration card holders in the state, which consisted of 1,97,100 beneficiaries under Antodaya Anna Yojna (AAY), 3,16,900 Below Poverty Line (BPL) beneficiaries and 9,30,000 Above Poverty Line (APL) families.

All these families were being provided three ‘dals,’ two edible oils, salt, wheat flour and rice on subsidized prices for which a provision of Rs. 90 crore had been made for current financial year budget, said Dhumal.

About there being more ration cards in proportion to the states census population, Ramesh Dhawala, minister for food and civil supplies says, “We have launched an inquiry into a sudden surge in new ration cards. In the past 9 months about 1 lakh new ration cards have been made.

Anil Khachi, secretary food and civil supplies says, “the inquiry has come as a follow up to a comptroller and auditor general (CAG) observation that how come the ration card population in Himachal was more than the census population of the state.”

To provide affordable food, the previous Virbhadra Singh government had introduced subsidized food items for ration card holders through the public distribution system.

The Prem Kumar Dhumal government decided to continue with the scheme and made a budgetary provision of Rs 90 crore for 2008-09 as well as had to clear an Rs 75 crore bill in a supplementary budget, which the previous government had left behind.

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