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'SAD-BJP government's Atta-dal scheme eating into Centre's funds'

Atta PunChandigarh, Nov. 1, 2013 –

In a startling revelation, the Punjab government has been using part of the central funds to run its much-publicised atta-dal scheme. It has come to light that so far 753 crore has been diverted from funds meant for procurement of wheat and paddy to feed the scheme.

Senior officials in the food and civil supplies department are not aware of this despite the fact that the practice is on since April 2008. The recoveries are to be made by the state's Punjab state civil supplies corporation (PUNSUP) which, in a communique sent to the department, has demanded the immediate release of funds diverted from the central funds for procurement which, according to the corporation, led to a serious audit objection.

Despite budgetary allocations, the government is not regularly sending subsidies for the attadal scheme to the state procurement agencies which are forced to depend on other sources to feed the scheme.

"With no funds of its own, the amount of ' 753.32 crore has been diverted from the cash credit being availed for the purchase of foodgrains for the central pool under the food credit scheme of the Reserve Bank of India inviting serious audit objection," says a communique from PUNSUP to the state food and civil supplies department on October 14.

Food and civil supplies secretary DS Grewal said he was not aware of any such diversion of funds. "The state-level procurement agencies have huge funds at their disposal. If an agency diverts funds at its own level, I can't say anything," Grewal said, seeking time to look into the details.

The populist scheme was started by the SAD-BJP government on August 15, 2007, which covers 15.4 lakh beneficiaries. In the scheme, the government gives 25 kg wheat and 2.5 kg lentil to below-poverty-line (BPL) beneficiaries.

T he communication by PUNSUP also said that despite budgetary provisions for respective years under the atta-dal scheme, no amount had been released since April 2008 against outstanding amount of subsidy.

The chief secretary on April 19, 2012 had ordered the release of ' 50 crore per month from June 2012 on account of outstanding subsidy under the atta-dal scheme. The communication from PUNSUP said a year had passed but no amount had been received against the outstanding subsidy for which necessary arrangements were to be made.

PUNSUP MD PS Shergill said a sum of ' 100 crore was required to feed the scheme and the government's subsidy was pending from April 2007 to June 2012. "We have diverted funds for the procurement of foodgrains to the atta-dal scheme and hope the state government would reimburse us," added Shergill.

HYPOTHECATING WHEAT STOCKS
Apart from diverting the limit for procurement of foodgrains to feed the atta-dal scheme, PUNSUP has also raised the cash credit limit of ' 290 crore from the UCO Bank by hypothecating wheat stocks to feed the atta-dal scheme. PUNSUP says it is facing problems in availing the credit limit and interestingly no other bank is coming forward to finance as the RBI rules do not permit it.

*HT Media Ltd.

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