In a sharp criticism of the proposal to bring down coverage of beneficiaries under the food law, Congress leader and former Food Minister K V Thomas today alleged BJP is “mishandling” the programme and the move will make make the poor more vulnerable.
A high-level panel on FCI restructuring, headed by BJP MP Shanta Kumar, has suggested that the government have a “relook” at the food law and reduce the coverage of beneficiary and increase the foodgrains entitlement to 7 kg per person.
“BJP is mishandling the food law,” Thomas told PTI, adding that the plan to bring down the coverage of beneficiaries to 40 per cent from the existing 67 per cent of the population will deny a large number of poor the benefits of highly subsidised foodgrains under the Public Distribution System (PDS).
The panel’s recommendations will destroy the purpose of Food Corporation of India (FCI), which was set up by former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to ensure food security of poor under the PDS and minimum support price (MSP) to farmers, he said.
Thomas also criticised the NDA government’s decision to give flexibility to states to fix the retail price of the PDS sugar, which has been kept unchanged at Rs 13.50 per kg since 2002.
“This will allow state governments to fix the PDS sugar rate at higher rate, burdening the poor ration shop buyers. If states are facing problem to handle the cost, it is the responsibility of the Centre to give higher subsidy,” he said.
After decontrol of the sugar sector, the Centre is giving a fixed subsidy of Rs 18.50 per kg to states for sugar purchase from the open market to meet the PDS demand.
Food law, which aims to give legal right to highly subsidised foodgrains to one third of the population, has so far been rolled out in 11 states.