The Tamil Nadu government has informed the Madras High Court that it has stopped the distribution of Rs 2,000 in special assistance for 60 lakh families before the poverty line announced by the Chief Minister in February. Advocate General Vijay Narayanan reasoned before a bench of Justice S Manikumar and Justice Subramonium Prasad that the Election Commission's Model Code of Conduct was in place, ahead of the upcoming Lok Sabha polls.
According to The New Indian Express, the court was listening to two PILs filed by M Karunanidhi and M Murugesan, who sought that special assistance be distributed to only those below the poverty line, as had been originally announced. The petitioners cited a second Government Order issued by the Rural Development and Panchayat Raj department, which appeared to have altered the criteria for receiving the assistance to 'poor families living in rural and urban areas, particularly, agricultural labourers and families of poor labourers engaged in various trades in the state.'
â€śOn the same day, the department issued another GO laying down guidelines for implementing the order through which the benefit was extended to even those families that were above the poverty line,â€ť the petitioners reportedly pointed out. Accusing the government of abusing government funds for garnering votes, the petitioners also said, "Taxpayersâ€™ money was being purported to be used to extend benefit to families who are not below poverty line."
The court also said that the government should probe how a draft GO order had been leaked to the petitioners. The matter was adjourned to April 29.
TNM had reported earlier that Rs 2,000 each distributed as part of the government's poverty alleviation scheme were handed out to families at a posh residential complex in suburban Chennai. It may also be recalled that in January, the government paid Rs 1,000 as cash gift and gift hamper to ration card holders -- BPL and non-priority households with sugar only ration card -- as a Pongal festival bonanza. The Madras High Court had pointed out that it was public money, and not party money.