Hole in purse makes Kerala government cut down on Onam kits

Hole in purse makes Kerala government cut down on Onam kits
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This year 6,07,691 kits will be distributed, 5,87,691 for families in the high-priority category and the rest for welfare institutions. 

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: In a decision exposing the acute financial crisis it finds itself in, the government has drastically cut down the number of free food kits to be distributed this Onam season. If kits were distributed to 87 lakh consumers, at a cost of Rs 500 crore, last year, this time around the government will distribute just over 6 lakh kits worth Rs 32 crore. The move has also put the government in a spot, with the fiscal prudence of spending Rs 500 crore in 2022 coming under scrutiny.

The state cabinet on Wednesday decided to limit kit distribution to families in the Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY), the high-priority category in the public distribution system. 

An additional 20,000 kits will be distributed to less-privileged inmates of welfare institutions, said an official release.  

This year 6,07,691 kits will be distributed, 5,87,691 for families in the high-priority category and the rest for welfare institutions. 

Each cloth kit will have tea powder, green gram dal, semiya payasam mix, ghee, cashew nuts, coconut oil, sambar powder, chilly powder, turmeric powder, coriander powder, green gram, toor dal and salt. Last year sugar, ‘sarkkara varatti’ and a few other ingredients were also part of the kit. 

Government should come out with white paper on finances: Expert

Economist B A Prakash, who was the chairman of the State Finance Commission during the previous UDF regime, said the government has no other option but to effect a cut. “The state finances are on the verge of a collapse. Only very essential spending like salary and pension are made without delay. The decision to limit the food kit distribution to the needy is welcome. But the crisis is so severe that such measures alone will not help. The government should come out with a white paper on finances,” he said.  

Finance Minister K N Balagopal had earlier hinted that the government would give up the practice of universal distribution this year. The state government is facing a shortage of about Rs 8,000 crore due to the Union government’s cut in the upper ceiling on market borrowings. 

The government had earlier asked the Civil Supplies Department to submit alternate proposals to reduce the spending on food kits. The department’s proposal said the spending could be limited to Rs 30 crore if only AAY families are considered. If the next priority category, those in the Priority Household category are also included, the expense would have become Rs 200 crore, the proposal said.

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