Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Saturday rolled out a “smart ration card” scheme for providing subsidised foodgrains to 1.41 crore beneficiaries in the state.
He also announced a separate state-funded scheme to provide subsidised rations to nine lakh beneficiaries not covered under the National Food Security Act (NFSA).
With this, the total number of beneficiaries in the state will go up to 1.50 crore, the chief minister said while rolling out the smart ration card scheme under which 37.5 lakh cards will be distributed to the eligible beneficiaries this month.
The CM said the Centre has capped the maximum number of beneficiaries to 1.41 crore and, despite repeated requests, has not agreed to provide subsidised rations to the deserving nine lakh people not covered under the NFSA.
His government has therefore decided to cover all such left out eligible persons under a state-funded scheme, details of which will be announced shortly, he said.
Launching the smart ration card scheme, the CM said the scheme would help curb corruption and give freedom to the beneficiaries to buy from any depot.
Describing it as a major step towards empowering the beneficiary, he said it will end the exploitation of beneficiaries by unscrupulous ration depot holders.
The scheme empowers the beneficiary to get his entitled quota of foodgrains from any ration depot in the state of Punjab, he said.
The CM lashed out at the BJP-led central government for attempting to “destroy” through three farm ordinances the spirit of Punjab’s farmers, who, he said, have toiled for the country and fed the nation.
The ordinances are Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020 and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020, he said.
These ordinances are aimed at ending the MSP regime and will hit the farmers hard, he claimed.
Referring to the Sutlej Yamuna Link canal issue, the CM said that is another problem Punjab is facing.
He said while he recently had one meeting with the Union Water Resources Minister and his Haryana counterpart, the problem continues to haunt the state.
Pointing to the melting glaciers and the receding groundwater level in the state, he said the situation is critical and the state simply cannot afford to give any water to other states.
In a symbolic gesture, the CM handed over the smart ration cards to four beneficiaries here, after which all ministers and MLAs distributed cards in their respective districts and constituencies, as per a government release.
Earlier, state Food minister Bharat Bhushan Ashu said the state government had weeded out ghost beneficiaries and undeserving people who were being provided subsidies by the erstwhile SAD-BJP regime at the cost of genuine beneficiaries, he added.
The Smart cards, said Ashu, will enable the beneficiaries to take ration from any shop, thus ending the monopoly of the ration depots.
Bio-metrics of the cardholder will be matched with the data stored in a chip on the smart ration card to prevent any fraudulent transfer of food grains, he said.
One card will suffice for the entire family, he said.