Puducherry Lt Governor Kiran Bedi on Saturday made a controversial announcement threatening to suspend supply of free rice to villagers in the union territory if the villages failed to get a certificate of open-defecation and garbage free before May 31.

Special Correspondent

In a statement, she said that distribution of free rice to the villagers, which benefits nearly half of the rural population, “shall be conditional to the certification of the village being open defecation free and free of strewn garbage and plastics by submitting a joint certificate given by the MLA and the Commune Commissioner to the Civil Supplies Commissioner.”

Lt Governor has given a four-week ultimatum that ends on May 31 for the local authorities to avail the certificate. “Till then the free rice supplies will be kept on hold and in safe storage.

It shall be distributed to the beneficiaries on the village being certified clean. The certification shall also be cross-checked to ensure its veracity.” she said, after her routine weekend morning round to Mannadipet Village.

“I am very anguished at the slow pace of rural sanitation. Last two years I have not seen local representatives and concerned public officials determined to make rural Puducherry clean within a time frame. I am sorry this cannot go on,” she said.

Bedi said that in all her rural visits “we have seen community leaders putting forth various demands on behalf of the people, but I have never seen any of them impatient at cleaning up the village in their constituency. Which is the cause of several diseases also in the village through contamination of water.”

Bedi also tweeted four pictures of littered neighbourhoods. In the tweet, she wrote, “Linked Free Rice distribution to respective constituency MLAs & Commune Commissioners Certifying villages open defecation free and of strewn garbage and plastic. Free rice reaches out to more than half the population primarily in rural areas This is the learning of morning round today.”

“I am sure the community leaders including concerned public servants will take the lead in this transformation. I also urge the NABARD to support only NGO who has inbuilt waste management as integral part of its training programs,” she noted.

Bedi's decision to link free rice scheme which covers half the population of rural areas with the cleanliness drive will trigger yet another confrontation with V Narayanasamy led Congress government in the union territory.

Narayanasamy and Minister of Welfare M Kandasamy were not available for comments.