Shimla, July 14 (IANS) Everyone in Himachal Pradesh is covered by the public distribution system, even the chief minister.
Unlike the National Food Security Ordinance which entitles 67 percent of the population to get subsidised grains from the government every month, Himachal Pradesh covers its entire population has been under the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), say officials.
There are 16.31 lakh ration card holders in the state for a population of 68,64,602, said an official of the Food and Civil Supplies Department.
The ration card holders include 11.63 lakh above poverty line who get three types of dals (lentils), two edible oils and salt at subsidised rates through 4,634 fair price shops.
Interestingly, even the chief minister and his cabinet colleagues enjoy the facility.
Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh has a ration card with seven family members enrolled on it, according to information accessed through Right to Information.
Likewise, Food and Civil Supplies Minister G.S. Bali, Health Minister Kaul Singh, Industries Minister Mukesh Agnihotri, Town and Country Planning Minister Sudhir Sharma and Excise and Taxation Minister Parkash Chaudhary also have ration cards.
"Our aim is to provide food items to all individuals at subsidized rates. Even I am regularly availing my (ration) quota," Bali told IANS.
He said in the 2013-14 budget the state government had allocated Rs.175 crore for the state food subsidy scheme.
Speaking at a meeting called by Congress president Sonia Gandhi with party chief ministers in Delhi Saturday, the chief minister said: "The ordinance may exclude about 18.85 lakh people from TPDS and also reduce monthly allocation by 17,094 metric tonnes of food grains to the state.
"But we will continue to provide food grains to all families irrespective of facts whether they are covered under the ambit of the ordinance or not."
The chief minister said 3.16 lakh below poverty line (BPL) families get 20 kg wheat and 15 kg rice a month irrespective of their family size. "The state will continue to provide this quota of ration to them."
The state's food subsidy scheme was started by Virbhadra Singh in his earlier tenure in 2007.
The later BJP government continued it with some changes.
The state is also providing subsidised ration to the sizeable population of Tibetans.
Officials said over 30,000 migratory Nepalese living in the state have also been demanding subsidised ration cards.