Warning the government about the serious consequences of its alleged “faulty” food distribution policy leading to creation of “two Indias of haves and have-nots,’ the Supreme Court on Wednesday sought detailed affidavits form the Centre and deputy chairman of the Planning Commission that why its BPL figure of 36 per cent was much lower than those projected by almost all the states.
Rejecting the argument of the Centre’s law officer that the malnutrition has come down, a bench of Justices Dealer Bhandari and Deepak Verma — monitoring the Centre’s public distribution system — said, “Coming down is of no consequence, it must be eliminated.”
“What a stark contradiction in our approach. You (government) say we are a powerful country… you can’t have two Indias… eradicate malnutrition as early as possible. You have a buffer stock of food grains. Godowns are full, this is a happy situation no doubt, but people must get the benefit. When you have godowns full and people are starving what is the benefit of it,” the bench told additional solicitor-general Mohan Prasaran.
Reminding that the difference in the BPL figures of the states and the Centre was not merely due to the political reasons as even the states ruled by the Congress, heading the government at the Centre had questioned the Central figure of 36 per cent. Almost all the states had projected the BPL population much higher than this figure, the top court said after analysing the affidavits of different states.
“We have affidavits of all the states, including those ruled by the Congress, which say the BPL population is much larger than 36 per cent. They have calculated this figure on the very same parameters, which you (plan panel) has laid down,” Justice Bhandari, heading the bench specifically told the Planning Commission counsel.
Referring to various reports — prepared by both by the government sponsored agencies and private organisations on hunger and malnutrition in most poor 150 districts spread over several states — the court asked the Centre to specify in the affidavit whether any special food package could be released to these districts to save the people from hunger, malnutrition and starvation.
“We are not saying that it (starvation and malnutrition) is in the entire country, but it is prevalent in several pockets. You (government) concentrate on these pockets. They are also citizens of this country. You are bound to protect them. When you say you have enough food stock, they can’t be denied of the basic minimum food requirement,” the top court told the government and the Planning Commission lawyers.
“We are very much concerned about the malnutrition… you (government) say you allot adequate food grains to the BPL families and only then supply surplus food to the above poverty line population, but over the past several years the malnutrition has increased in large parts of the country, specifically in Orissa, Bihar and Maharasthra and some other states,” the court pointed out. Asian Age