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TN: Food subsidy bill trimmed

Our Bureau

CHENNAI, March

THE Tamil Nadu Government has announced a major initiative to cut the food subsidy bill and diversion of rice from the public distribution system by introducing a coupon system for card holders purchasing rice from the PDS.

Presenting the budget for 2002-03, the Finance Minister, Mr C. Ponnaiyan, told the Assembly that the Government has earmarked Rs 1,240 crore for food subsidy, while maintaining the issue price of rice at Rs 3.50 per kg. However, to weed out bogus cards, a coupon system would be introduced for drawal of rice.

Under the system to be introduced from July 1, rice drawal coupons will be distributed to rice cardholders for one year. These coupons will have to be presented together with the ration card while buying rice from the fair price shops.

This is aimed at preventing bogus billing and consequent large-scale diversion, he said. It may be recalled that in the white paper on the State's finances tabled in the Assembly last year, the Government had said that the food subsidy bill came to about Rs 1,540 crore. But the benefits were not reaching the needy due to large-scale diversion and existence of bogus cards.

Briefing presspersons after the budget presentation, Government officials said the allotment to food subsidy was lower this year because of the anticipated gains following higher allocation at lower prices by the Centre.

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