Madras High Court on Thursday stated that it was the governmentâ€™s obligation to provide items like rice and groceries to the needy people and not to everybody for its own political benefits. It said that extending such schemes universally has resulted in people expecting everything free from the government.
The court was hearing a habeas corpus petition filed against the preventive detention of an accused in the case of smuggling rice allotted for distribution under the PDS scheme, according to news reports.
The bench led by justice N Kirubakaran raised a list of questions related to PDS including the action taken so far by the government against its officials for facilitating the smuggling of ration rice. Advocate General Vijay Narayan told the court that 442 officers of the Tamil Nadu Civil Supplies Corporation have been booked for malpractice in the last 10 years. As per a report in The Hindu, the judge, not satisfied with the reply, asked the advocate to submit the details of the designation of the officers and the number of such officers who were detained under Goondas Act.
â€śIt is brought to the notice of this court that for 2017-18, Rs 2,110 crore has been spent for distribution of free rice. â‚ą2,110crore is a huge amount, which should be spent judiciously including for infrastructure building. The government spends more than Rs 2,000 crore and the money spent under this head would be like capital loss and the expenditure occurs every year and it is a recurring capital loss, though it serves the people,â€ť the bench said.
The court also said that if the scheme benefits people other than poor, it would amount to unjustly enriching other people, at the cost of the public exchequer. Adding that free rice should be given to families below the poverty line alone, the bench directed the government to file a report whether any survey had been conducted to identify BPL families, the quantity of rice distributed to them and the budget needed for that.