Union Minister for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Ram Vilas Paswan addresses at the conference of State Food Secretaries to discuss end to end computerisation of PDS and .... Image Source: IANS/PIB

New Delhi, May 5 : Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Kalikho Pul on Thursday called on union Food and Civil Supplies Minister Ram Vilas Paswan and asked for one-time dispensation of the hill transport subsidy (HTS) bills payment pending for the last 11 years.

He said a large number of carriage contractors' payments were held up, which also included cooperative societies, according to an official statement.

"Due to non-payment of carriage bills amounting to Rs.900 crore, the carriage contractors were now unwilling to participate in the tenders floated for transportation of food grain," the statement quoted Kul as telling Paswan.

As a result, the state was facing crisis due to non-delivery of food grain, said the chief minister during the discussion, in which Vrinda Sarup, public distribution secretary, also participated over telephone.

He said once the state had to pay Rs.270 crore as HTS, that included Rs.158 crore in interest payments, following orders from the Supreme Court. The state government was thus forced to bear the burden of a central government responsibility in order to avoid contempt of court.

Pleading the case, the state government had filed numerous petitions -- right from the fast-track courts to the high court and the Supreme Court -- but were all rejected.

Pul said it was difficult for a resource-poor state like Arunachal Pradesh to take the responsibility of a mandate that is primarily of the central government.

He told the union minister that the state government had taken the decision to discontinue the head load system of distribution of food grain. These will now be distributed through motorable roads where possible, and for inaccessible areas, helicopter sorties would be engaged.

Pul also informed Paswan that the state government has decided to form a food and civil supplies corporation that would enable the government itself to handle the public distribution.

He said the state was contemplating direct cash system of benefits to the end-users through banks.

According to the plan, the beneficiaries would receive the amount for purchase of food grain to be deposited directly to their bank accounts that consists of transport and food grain subsidy.

The union minister assured full support to the state government's proposal and said that the Centre was ready to help the state at all possible levels.

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