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PM Takes On Supreme Court Over Free Grain Order

New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told the Supreme Court On Monday not  to get into "the realm of policy formulation" which should remain with the government.  In his first comments on the recent Supreme
PTI September 06, 2010 20:41 IST
PTI
New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told the Supreme Court On Monday not  to get into "the realm of policy formulation" which should remain with the government. 

In his first comments on the recent Supreme Court order directing the government to distribute foodgrains free to the poor rather than let them rot, Singh said policy formulation should "remain the concern of the policy makers and the government of the day". 

How can foodgrains be distributed free to an estimated 37 per cent of the population which lives below the poverty line, Singh asserted during an interaction with editors at his residence here. 

It was not  possible to give free foodgrains to all the poor, he said while answering a question on the order of the the apex court which had directed Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar to distribute foodgrains to the poor. 

The Prime Minister said he had not  seen the final judgement of the court but he respected the "sentiments" behind the decision that a way should be found to ensure that at a time when when foodgrains are rotting the needs of the people should be met. 

"I do recognise that food should be available to the people below poverty line at concessional prices.  We have not  allowed any increase in the issue price of foodgrains to people below poverty line since 2004," he said. 

To the extent possible, the government had taken adequate steps in this direction while noting  the apex court's concern that food should be available to the poor at affordable prices, he said. 

At the same time making food available free would destroy incentives to farmers to produce more.  If there was no  food available there would be nothing to distribute, he said.  In  Delhik, the  Congress backed the Prime Minister  and rejected suggestions that he has rebuffed the apex court. 

"He (Prime Minister) has said  whatever he has to say. We completely stand by whatever he has said. There can be no difference of opinion, not the slightest difference over the issue between the party and him ," party spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi told reporters at the AICC briefing.  Replying to a question, he said "I totally deny that Prime Minister has rebuffed the Supreme Court. Those in the opposition, who are trying to sensationalize it as a rebuff to the SC, do not know how the judiciary and the executive function," Singhvi said. 

Singhvi did not agree that there was any order from the Supreme court regarding distributing free rotting foodgrains. Earlier Pawar's NCP had taken a similar line. 

"The Supreme Court has given no direction, order or judgement. There is no order. If there is an order we are violating, please go and file a contempt we will face it," Singhvi said adding the observation "does not reflect any final or even interim view of the SC." PTI