The Left Front government in Tripura Friday opposed the central government's move to provide direct transfer of food subsidy in cash to people, currently accessible through the public distribution system (PDS).
"The proposed direct transfer of food subsidy in cash to people planned to be effective by the central government from next month. The new system would spoil the PDS and create famine in India," Tripura Food and Civil Supplies Minister Manik Dey told reporters.
He said the union consumer affairs, food and public distribution ministry secretary, Sudhir Sharma, held a meeting in New Delhi recently with the food department officials of all states and directed them to implement the new scheme from January 1, 2013 onwards.
According to Dey, the central government has decided to implement the new scheme of direct transfer of subsidy in 51 districts, including four in Tripura, on pilot basis.
Dey in a letter to the union minister, K.V. Thomas, demanding withdrawal of the plan immediately.
"This direct transfer of food subsidy in cash to people proposal is unrealistic and there is a belief that the central government is cleverly chalking out an escape route from their basic duty of ensuring supply of essential commodities up to the door step of the common people," Dey said.
"There must be universal coverage of PDS. Centre should introduce a scheme for supply of state-preferred basic essential commodities like edible oil, pulses, detergent powder, soap, spices, exercise books for students, toothpaste and cheap cloth."
Strongly opposing the National Food Security (NFS) draft bill, the Tripura minister said that in its present form, it is grossly inadequate in achieving its objectives.
"The NFS draft bill is against the interests of the poor and the middle class as it would weaken the PDS. To control the prices of market, the PDS must be a strong arrangement," he observed.
"As per the present form of the NFS bill, 25 percent rural people and 50 percent urban citizens would be out of the purview of the PDS," Dey said.
The minister alleged that the Manmohan Singh-led UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government had been trying to withdraw the PDS and encourage black-marketing of food items.
"The NFS draft bill proposes that the state government has to be liable to make payment of food security allowance in case of failure to supply permitted quantity of food grain to the entitled person. The Left Front government opposes this provision," the Tripura food minister said.
The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) has been organising protest rallies demanding an overhaul of the draft NFS bill.