Lt Governor Kiran Bedi has said that free rice supply to villages in Puducherry will be subject to them being open defecation and garbage free.

Its unconstitutional Puducherry CM to TNM on Kiran Bedi move to withhold free rice
news Politics Saturday, April 28, 2018 - 15:30

Hours after Puducherry Lt Governor Kiran Bedi issued directives to stop supply of free rice to villages that were not open defecation and garbage free, the Union Territory's Chief Minister Naryanaswamy has slammed the move as 'unconstitutional'.

Speaking with TNM, V Narayanswamy alleged that Bedi was meddling with the fundamental rights of Puducherry's residents. 

"In Puducherry, most of the rural villages are clean. There are problems in a few villages which we will concentrate upon. For that, the administrator without knowing the implication of the instructions she has given, she is trying to meddle with the rights of the people for which she has no power. What Kiran Bedi has said is against the spirit of the National Food Security act," says the Chief Minister.

"Not only is this unconstitutional but it shows that she doesn't know about the current situation. There is lack of cleanliness in Delhi, Haryana, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Will they stop free rice scheme there?" he asks. 

On Saturday, in a circular addressed to Puducherry’s MLAs, secretaries and the Government of India, Bedi said rice supplies “shall be conditional to the certification of the village being open defecation free and free of strewn garbage and plastics by submitting a joint certificate given by the MLA and the Commune Commissioner to the Civil Supplies Commissioner.  Till then the free rice supplies will be kept on hold and in safe storage. It shall be distributed to the beneficiaries on the village being certified clean.”

Following her instructions to Director of Civil Supplies, Kiran Bedi also wrote a letter to the CM informing him of the same. Stating that she was “anguished” to see the poor sanitation in parts of rural Puducherry, the Lt. Governor says, “In all the rural visits, the community leaders have been vociferous and proactive in raising various demands on behalf of the people. However, the same enthusiasm and impatience was not shown by them to actively and earnestly participate in Swachh campaign.”

Justifying her order, she writes, “As such in order to inculcate a sense of responsibility amongst the local community, we require to cast a duty upon the local community for maintenance of their localities and health. the rice distribution shall therefore be made conditional to the certification that the village is open defecation free and free of strewn garbage and plastics. Accordingly, I have issued directions to the Director of Civil supplies. A notice to the village be given for a period of four weeks till 31st May 2019 to make the villages clean."

Not only has the Lt Governor given just May 31 as a deadline to beneficiaries to get the 'clean' certificate but has also threatened to withhold supplies till then. 

The Chief Minister further claims that this displays Bedi's lack of awareness about the constitutional obligation of the government. "She is not aware of the administrative systems. This is a person's fundamental right to get this rice. Nobody can meddle with that. We are not giving rice to people from central budget, we are giving from state budget," he argues.

When asked about her allegations about the lack of cleanliness in the Union Territory, he says, "We will achieve open defecation free status by June 2018. We are doing it in a phased manner. MLAs are already working on this. MLAs are answerable to these problems and they will handle issues of sanitation." 

According to Narayanswamy, 75% of the rural population must receive free rice according to the National Food Security Act. 60% of the population has to be in the urban limit. The Puducherry government, he claims, has been giving 20kg for poor people and 10 kg for above poverty line (APL) families.

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