Maharashtra: PDS ambit widened, orange ration card holders to get wheat, rice at subsidised rates for 2 months

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The state Cabinet decided to set up Shiv Bhojan centres offering subsidised lunch plates at tehsil levels for the next three months. (Representational Image)

Widening the ambit of the public distribution system (PDS), the state Cabinet on Tuesday gave its approval to supply wheat and rice at subsidised rates in May and June to orange ration card holders (Above Poverty Line category). The 3.08-crore orange ration card holders are not covered under the National Food Security Act (NFSA).

Officials said that the orange ration card holders will get 3 kg wheat and 2 kg rice at Rs 8 per kg and Rs 12 per kg, respectively. The move is likely to cost the public exchequer Rs 250 crore.

Sources said that Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi soon after the Cabinet meeting, seeking additional 1.54 lakh metric tonne of foodgrains. "The state has sought the foodgrains as per the Centre's policy of providing it at minimum support price during natural calamities," said an official.

Aslam Shaikh, Minster for Textiles and Fisheries, said that the issue of supplying foodgrains to white ration card holders (annual income of over Rs 1 lakh) was also discussed in the Cabinet meeting and a decision would be taken in the next few days.

The Cabinet also decided to set up Shiv Bhojan centres offering subsidised lunch plates at tehsil levels for the next three months. This is expected to provide relief to the migrant workers, the homeless and others who are stranded at different places. At present, such centres are located at the district levels.

Further, the Cabinet approved various decisions, including notifications and orders, taken in the last three weeks to tackle COVID-19 in the state. It also approved an amendment to the Maharashtra Trusts Act to get financial support from religious organisations in the wake of the pandemic.

For the first time in the state's history, the Cabinet meeting was held through video-conference as many ministers were at the district headquarters. While Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray and Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat were at Varsha bungalow, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar, Home Minister Anil Deshmukh and Public Health Minister Rajesh Tope were at Mantralaya.

The issue of lifting of the lockdown was also discussed. "An appropriate decision will be taken after reviewing the prevailing situation," said Uddhav. A minister said the lockdown is likely to be extended in Mumbai and Pune regions, as these areas have been termed as sensitive areas.

Issues like availability of testing kits, medical facilities, essential commodities and community kitchens also came for discussion. "The district collectors have been authorised to take decision about the deployment of home gaurds. Local officials should decide on timings for distribution of essential items," Uddhav said at the meeting.