The Madras High Court has expressed its disappointment over the huge amount of money being spent on free PDS rice given to all holders of ration cards, irrespective of their economic status, observing that free rice is making people of Tamil Nadu “lazy”. The court said while it was obligatory on the part of the government to provide bare necessities such as rice and other groceries to the poor people, successive governments had extended such benefits to all people for political benefits, it said.
The high court was hearing a petition challenging detention under the Goondas Act of a person accused of smuggling and selling PDS rice, while taking note of the government's submission that free rice was given to all holders of ration cards, irrespective of their economic status.
"Consequently, people began to expect everything for free from the government. As a result, they have become lazy, and migrant workers were being brought for even menial works," a bench comprising Justices N Kirubakaran and Abdul Quddhose said.
The court asked Advocate General Vijay Narayan to get instructions from the government as to whether the public distribution scheme could be amended so that others could be excluded.
According to the state government, Rs 2,110 crore had been spent for distribution of free rice in the year 2017-18.
The judges said it was high time to restrict the distribution of free rice only to BPL families and directed Advocate General Vijay Narayan to get instructions from the government as to whether the public distribution scheme could be amended so that others could be omitted.
"This court is not against the distribution of rice to the really deserving, economically backward and poor people. However, it should not be given to people irrespective of their economic status.
"If the scheme benefits people other than poor people/BPL family, it would amount to unjustly enriching other people at the cost of public exchequer," the court said.
"The free rice should be given to the families which are below the poverty line alone and they have to be the beneficiaries," it said.