Pongal hamper row: Not in position to approve proposal, says Bedi

Kiran Bedi

Puducherry: Hours after Chief Minister V Narayanasamy warned Lt Governor Kiran Bedi of serious repercussions if she did not concur with his government over the proposal to distribute Pongal gifts to above poverty line (APL) families, she said on Saturday that her office was not in a position to approve it.

On Friday, while addressing reporters, Narayanaswamy informed he had sent Bedi a file informing that Pongal hampers comprising raisins, cashew nuts, and cardamom should be available free of cost to all families without discrimination.

He said Bedi was insisting on giving the gifts only to BPL families and would face serious repercussions if she did not agree with his government on issue.

Reacting to Narayanaswamy’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.

She further said that it was principally wrong for them to expect her to be a mere endorser of their demands and views and asked the Chief Minister not to use threatening words and maintain decorum in his speech and notes he was writing to her. She also warned that she would be compelled to make those notes public.

V Narayanasamy

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.”

Bedi clarified that 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. The Department of Civil Supplies needed Rs 63 crores in addition for the scheme but had only Rs 19.51 crores. “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 stated.

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.”

She maintained that the Pongal gift would be available only for BPL families as no additional grant was received from the Centre for a revised estimate of expenditure. “The Finance Department has declined to concur with the proposal to provide Pongal gift to APL families,” she siad.

The Chief Minister also claimed the recent Madras High Court order, permitting distribution of freebies to all ration card holders in Tamilnadu without any discrimination was also applicable to Puducherry. He alleged that Bedi was twisting and misinterpreting the court order.

“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 said.

narayanasamy said the Lt Governor cannot run roughshod and misuse power and authority. The chief minister also participated in a demonstration organised jointly by the Left parties and the Viduthalai Chirutaigal Katchi to condemn Bedi’s style of functioning. Narayanaswamy and Bedi have been at loggerheads on various issues in Puducherry.

NT Bureau