Puducherry's Lt Governor Kiran Bedi announced on Saturday that the distribution of free rice to villagers in the union territory will be stopped if their villages are not defecation and garbage free.
Her latest diktat has been labelled dictatorial and bordering on the absurd by political parties in the state.
According to a series of tweets, the Lt Governor made this decision after her rural management team named 'Raj Nivas' made its 155th round to Mannadipet village in Puducherry. Currently, the rice distribution scheme that she refers to benefits over half the union territory's population. But Bedi has threatened to stop supplies till the village is certified as clean by authorities.
According to her statement, rice distribution '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.' The statement was addressed to MLAs, secretaries and the Government of India. Not only has she given just four weeks to beneficiaries to get the 'clean' certificate but has also threatened to withhold supplies till then.
"Nobody, not even the Chief Minister of the state has the power to give such directions, leave alone the Lt Governor. She is once again trying to assert certain powers that she does not have," says retired IAS officer MG Devasahayam. "As a citizen of this country, you are entitled to food. It is an inherent right. This is complete absurd," he adds.
Many, including MG Devasahayam have pointed out that the latest directive is not only bizarre but also in direct conflict with Article 21 of the Constitution that guarantees right to life. It further violates Article 47 which directs the State to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living and to improve public health as among its primary duties.
Bedi however, quotes her 'anguish' as the reason behind the decision. "I am very anguished at the slow pace of rural sanitation. Last two years I have not seen local representatives and concerned public officials determined to make rural Puducherry clean within a time frame. I am sorry this cannot go on," she says. "All constituencies are given four weeks notice to clean up their respective areas to be entitled for the free rice. The notice period ends on May 31st."