Hyderabad: The state government has kept the Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) for the public distribution system (PDS) under wraps after party MLAs and leaders brought to the notice of Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao that it may prove detrimental to TRS prospects in the elections if ration shops are abolished at this stage.
They pointed out that when BJP-ruled states had themselves ignored the DBT proposed by the NDA government at the Centre, the TRS government should not take hasty steps on a matter that has political implications.
They said that over 2.80 crore PDS beneficiaries would be affected in the crucial election year. Besides, they said, it may invite backlash from farmers as the government would not need to procure paddy from them at minimum support price in the absence of the public distribution system.
Mr Rao had proposed to implement DBT in October last year when ration dealers were threatening to go on strike.
The CM asked civil supplies department officials to examine the Centre’s proposal of implementing DBT, wherein the ration subsidy is directly credited in the bank accounts of beneficiaries, who have to withdraw the amount and purchase rations in the open market.
The CM opined that this would help check irregularities in the PDS like illegal diversion, black marketing of rice and other essential commodities.
The Centre last year had written to all state governments to examine the possibility of implementing DBT for rations.
The state government has not responded so far. The CM asked officials to examine whether any states were implementing the DBT scheme, and whether it was helpful in curbing irregularities.
A team of officials from the department inquired with all states and found that only Union Territories were implementing DBT. Union Territories have no rice procurement policy unlike states, and the Centre directly supplies PDS rice to them.
However, in TS , the government procures lakhs of tonnes of paddy from farmers for MSP, supplies it to millers for milling and takes rice stocks for PDS.
If PDS is abolished and DBT is introduced, the farmers will have to be completely dependent on private traders to sell their produce. There are chances of traders exploiting this situation to their advantage and offer lower price than MSP.
An official of civil supplies department said, “After we submitted our report to CM, he felt that it would not be a good idea to abolish the PDS at this stage, The CM conveyed the concerns expressed by party MLAs and leaders on this issue and asked us not to go ahead with this idea before the 2019 elections.”