CHANDIGARH: Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has entered into competitive mode with the UPA government by making the announcement to double the beneficiaries of the subsidized atta-daal scheme in the state from the existing 15 lakh to 30 lakh families.
What has triggered the competition is the promulgation of the Food Security Ordinance by the centre to ensure that no poor in the country sleeps hungry. The centre’s decision would cover 75 per of the rural and 50 per cent of the urban population. The centre’s scheme, however, does not include daal. The identification of eligible households has been left to the state governments. The subsidized foodgrains is to be routed through the public distribution system.
With the centre covering such a large number of population in both rural as well as the urban areas, the burden on the states like Tamil Nadu and Punjab which provide subsidized foodgrains would decrease as the same would now be coming from the centre and distributed by the state government to the identified beneficiaries.
Punjab had been facing the problem of a large number of ineligible beneficiaries availing of this scheme . The state government had been trying to weed out such beneficiaries.
It may be mentioned that due to the financial crisis, the state government has been facing difficulties in continuing this scheme and at times, the distribution of foodgrains gets delayed. Despite such a situation, Badal has gone ahead to double the number of beneficiaries in the state under the atta-daal scheme.
Though at the moment comfortably placed, the Akali Dal-BJP alliance would not like to take any risk in the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections. The political parties across the country are aware of the political benefit that the UPA can harvest from this new flagship scheme despite its declining graph due to mismanagement, inflation and corruption. It is a different matter that the main opposition, the BJP, is yet to give the impression of posing decisive challenge despite placing bets on Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
In Punjab, the Congress is in the process of being re-organised after the appointment of Partap Singh Bajwa as the state President replacing Capt. Amarinder Singh under whose leadership the party had been repeatedly facing defeats at every level. The new organizational set up is yet to be put in place.
While the state Congress is still trying to find its moorings, the Akali Dal is far ahead by way of launching the election campaign and the latest announcement by Badal should be seen in this context to neutralize the political benefits of the Food Security Ordinance to the UPA.