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Not in Position to Approve Proposal of Pongal Gifts, Bedi Tells Puducherry CM

Puducherry Lt Governor Kiran Bedi said that no additional grant was received from the Centre for a revised estimate of expenditure, and hence, the Finance Department has declined to concur with the proposal to provide Pongal gift.


Updated:January 13, 2019, 9:34 AM IST
Not in Position to Approve Proposal of Pongal Gifts, Bedi Tells Puducherry CM
File image of Puducherry Lt Governor Kiran Bedi. (Photo: PTI)

Puducherry: Puducherry Lt Governor Kiran Bedi has said her office is "not in a position" to approve the proposal to distribute Pongal gifts to APL families, hours after Chief Minister V Narayanasamy warned her of "serious repercussions" if she did not concur with his government on the issue.

Addressing reporters here late on Saturday, Narayanasamy, who has been at loggerheads with Bedi on various issues, said he had on Friday sent a file, informing her that Pongal hampers comprising raisins, cashew nuts, and cardamom should be available free of cost to "all families without discrimination".

He said Bedi, who was insisting on giving the gifts to only BPL families, would face "very serious repercussions" if she did not see eye to eye with his government on the Pongal gift hamper scheme.

Bedi in a WhatsApp message said, "The Puducherry Finance Department had examined the proposal for providing the gift to above poverty line (APL) families and it had found that no separate funds were provided for the Pongal gift in the budget for the fiscal 2018-2019".

The allocation of funds was budgeted only for the operation of free rice scheme which is also highly inadequate, she said.

Free rice was distributed during the current fiscal only up to September and the rice is yet to be distributed for the remaining five months, she said, adding that the Department of Civil Supplies needed Rs 63 crores additionally for the scheme but had only Rs 19.51 crores.

Bedi stated that "already there is a shortfall in revenue collection to the extent of Rs 112 crores and hence "we are in dire need for funds to pay pension, settle power bills and meet other commitments".

She said that no additional grant was received from the Centre for a revised estimate of expenditure. For these reasons, the Finance Department here has declined to concur with the proposal to provide Pongal gift to APL families.

She said the government also has to save money to protect the interest of poor families coming under BPL (below poverty line) category, while maintaining that the Pongal gift would be available only for BPL families.

Reacting to the CM's warning, Bedi said, "I am personally not afraid of anything." The chief minister and his colleagues should realise that when a file is sent to her office for approval it shall be read with "application of mind and rules as office of the Lt Governor is not a rubber stamp," she said, adding it was "principally wrong for them to expect the Lt Governor to be a mere endorser of their demands and views."

Bedi also requested the chief minister not to use threatening words towards a constitutional office and "maintain decorum" in his speech and in the notes he was writing to her. Otherwise, she would be "compelled to make those notes public for people to know what and how he was writing".

Earlier in the day, the chief minister claimed the recent Madras High Court order, permitting distribution of freebies to all ration card holders in Tamil Nadu without any discrimination, was also applicable to Puducherry.

He charged the Lt Governor with "twisting and misinterpreting" the court order which, he said, had only restrained the Tamil Nadu government from distributing cash gift of Rs 1,000 to all families.

"The free supply of provisions and commodities for Pongal is to cover all families and the high court has also made this very clear," he pointed out.

Bedi had on Wednesday hailed the Madras High Court order, directing the Tamil Nadu government to restrict the Pongal cash gift of Rs 1,000 to Below Poverty Line families. In a message to media, she had said the order was "a voice of wisdom, sagacity, financial prudence and reasonable restraint protecting society as a whole... also one of accountability and responsibility towards the really needy".

Noting that there was a limit to everything, Narayanasamy said the Lt Governor "cannot run roughshod and misuse power and authority". He also termed as "unfortunate" Prime Minister Narendra Modi's response to the representations made by him all along on the style of functioning of the Puducherry Lt Governor.

The chief minister also participated in a demonstration organised jointly by the Left parties and the Viduthalai Chirutaigal Katchi (VCK) to condemn Bedi's "autocratic" style of functioning.

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