Attempts likely to subvert Kerala govt’s free kit distribution; Supplyco GM issues warning

During the first phase of free kits distribution, the jaggery and pappad distributed had triggered controversies due to their poor quality
Attempts likely to subvert Kerala govt’s free kit distribution; Supplyco GM issues warning
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The General Manager of Kerala State Civil Supplies Corporation (Supplyco) has warned employees that there may be attempts to sabotage the government’s distribution of free food kits. General Manager R Rahul warned employees after issuing guidelines for the distribution of the food kits.

The General Manager’s warning comes ahead of the government’s second phase of distribution of free food kits. The state has decided to continue the distribution of free food kits for another four months, which is believed to have contributed to its victory in the just concluded local body polls.

In the letter issued to employees, Rahul stressed that some centres may try to undermine the government’s performance since Assembly elections are around the corner. Besides, the letter urged employees to be vigilant as there may be attempts from some centres to defraud.

In addition to ensuring the quality of food items, the letter even recommends the timely delivery of these kits to ration shops. The letter even allows the regional managers to buy food locally if goods procured through Supplyco tenders do not arrive on time. According to reports, the General Manager has warned of delays in purchasing items or sabotaging the delivery of kits to ration shops.

During the first phase of free kits distribution, the jaggery and pappad distributed had triggered controversies due to their poor quality. Critics have pointed out that the government procured low-quality jaggery from different states and various brands, marketing it as the same in the state for the distribution purposes.

While the reason behind the issuance of such guidelines is not clear, earlier, ration distributors had expressed their non-cooperation with the scheme, as they hadn’t received their commission as promised by the state. The food kit distribution started during the initial Covid lockdown, and the CPM-led state government extended it with the election in sight. According to sources, the LDF’s success in the local polls pointed to the fact that the food distribution, regardless of its criticism, has helped the left alliance a lot. Afterwards, the Kerala government decided to extend the distribution until April with the Assembly election in sight, according to political observers.

On January 20, when the distribution of kit for yellow card orders was supposed to have begun, the traders were unwilling to take over the kit. They decided not to continue with the distribution until they receive a commission for the previous five batches. So far, they have only received the commission for the first distribution, and that too at Rs 7 per kit. However, the traders are demanding Rs 20 per kit.

Even if the government pays at the rate of Rs 7 per kit, the state would need Rs 37 Crore to pay the five-month commission. Distributors also complained that Supplyco does not take back remaining food items after distribution. While a meeting has been called for the same, nothing has come out of it, and the distribution seems to be at an impasse. Moreover, the Food Department had decided not to surrender to the demands forwarded by the traders, especially regards to increasing the commission. They have suggested finding alternative ways to deal with the issue if a negative outcome occurs.

The food kits distribution during the lockdown period and subsequent months are already an expensive procedure, costing the exchequer nearly Rs 2,845. With the government extending distribution till April, the state will have to shell out around Rs 4,200 in total for the project. Planning different ways to cut down costs, the department has already cut down on the number of items and they have brought it down to 10 per kit.

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