MUMBAI: Maharashtra seems to be no country for old people. Not if they are destitute, over 65 and hungry. Not a speck of the 225 metric tonnes of grain the aged in the state are due to get every month under a food scheme for the poor can be found in Maharashtra. With the Centre not releasing the quota since April 2014, the scheme has come to a complete standstill in the state for the last 10 months.

The Annapurna Yojana, which has been operating nationwide since 2001, has roughly 78,400 beneficiaries in Maharashtra. Under the scheme, the destitute population—aged 65 and above—is eligible for 10 kg of free wheat and rice each month. The grains are provided by the Centre.

The state was receiving roughly 225 metric tonnes of wheat and rice from the Centre each month. However, since April 2014, the Centre's allocation abruptly halted and has still not resumed, figures with the state food and civil supplies department show.

State government officials say the initial delay was caused by attempts to streamline the scheme. "The Centre used to release grains based on our demand over a six-month period. But since March 2014, states were asked to submit a utilization certificate on the basis of which the quota would be released," said an official who did not want to be named.

The state government sent across its "utilization certificate" with its demand for grains in March 2014. However, no supply arrived and no explanation seems to be forthcoming. Since then, the state has sent three reminders: in November and December 2014 as well as January this year. But it is still waiting for the grains to arrive.

PHOTO • Priyanka Kakodkar

Groups agitating for food rights feel the state government should fill in for the delay. "This is a very vulnerable population. If the Centre's quota has not come, what is the state government doing?" asks Kiran Moghe of the Janwadi Mahila Sanghatna.

State food and civil supplies secretary Deepak Kapoor did not comment on the delay. Food and civil supplies minister Girish Bapat, who has recently assumed charge, said he would make enquiries about the scheme's status.

Photos: Shaikh Aziz

Report 1: The original version of this story appeared in The Times of India on 22 Jan 2015

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