Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala’s deepening financial crisis threatens to derail the public distribution system as the state food department is left with no money to procure the central allotment of foodgrains, including 3,500 tons of rice meant for the fishermen affected by Cyclone Ockhi.
The finance department has not yet released the Rs 39 crore meant to be paid to the Food Corporation of India by December 31 towards the share for February.
This could affect the public distribution of foodgrains in February. The state government is supposed to pay the FCI in advance, so that it could procure foodgrains and transport them to the distribution centers between the 1st and 31st of January.
Even last month, the payment to the FCI was delayed by a week due to the money crunch. The finance department can’t even say when it would release the fund this time.
The food department officials were informally told that the payment was delayed because the finance department was struggling to find the money to pay the government employees.
The government’s position is further weakened by the Food Security Act, which requires the state governments to pay the FCI. Earlier, ration wholesalers would pay the FCI and get the money reimbursed by the government.
Kerala procures 1.18 tons of foodgrains from FCI warehouses every month. The food department could not even procure 3,500 tons of rice allotted by the central government for the cyclone-hit families on the coastline.
The department has been tapping into the stocks in its warehouses to feed the distressed fishermen and their families. The center has promised to distribute rice at Rs 24 per kilogram, a Rs 10 discount to the procurement cost. The central government has asked the state to produce the certificates to prove the distribution of rice.
Kerala civil supplies department director Tej Lohith Reddy said he expected the finance department to allot the money immediately. The department has informed the treasury of the money needed for the procurement of foodgrains last month, he said.
He also said that Kerala would not end up losing the rice allotted by the central government to the cyclone-hit people. The money to procure the share of rice will be made available soon, he added.
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