Sugarcane is an essential component of the harvest festival of Pongal but this time it is missing from the Tamil Nadu government’s “Pongal gift hamper” for ration-card holders. This has kicked up a political row, threatening to singe the DMK-led government during the festive season.
Not just Opposition parties such as the AIADMK and the BJP, ally CPI(M) has also urged the MK Stalin-led government to review its decision and include sugarcane in the gift hamper. The ruling party has not yet reacted to the demands.
On Thursday, the state government announced that each of the 2.19 ration-card holders in the state would receive a Pongal gift of Rs 1,000 and one kg of raw rice and sugar. This, the government said, would cost the state exchequer Rs 2,356.67 crore.
AIADMK chief and former Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami, the current Leader of the Opposition in the Assembly, on Saturday demanded that Stalin increase the gift amount to Rs 5,000 and sugarcane instead of what the government announced two days ago.
Palaniswami reminded Stalin that when he was the Opposition leader he had demanded that the then-AIADMK government give Rs 5,000 to ration-card holders during Pongal. Palaniswami said sugarcane farmers were shocked by the government’s plan as they expected the government to procure their produce ahead of the harvest festival.
State BJP president K Annamalai also demanded that the government include sugarcane and a kilo of palm jaggery in the gift hamper. He questioned whether complaints raised last year about the poor quality of the items in the Pongal gift baskets led to the “minimal gift hamper” this year.
On Saturday, the CPI(M) released a statement urging the government to include sugarcane and palm jaggery in the gift hamper. The Left party said the government should keep other products such as spices and ghee in the gift basket, citing that all of them were part of the gift boxes of the past two years.
The Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK), an AIADMK ally, and the Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) of TTV Dhinakaran also criticised the government. PMK leader S Ramadoss said the decision was unfair to sugarcane farmers.
While Stalin will distribute the gift baskets to beneficiaries at an event in Chennai on January 2, 2023, ministers have been designated to launch the scheme in other districts on the same day.