The Centre today warned Kerala and Tamil Nadu that foodgrains for distribution to above poverty line (APL) families would be provided at a higher rate to the states if they fail to implement the National Food Security Act (NFSA) at the earliest. Other 34 NFSA implementing states and Union Territories have been asked to address gaps in the list of beneficiaries, computerisation of PDS operation, Aadhar linkage with ration cards and grievance redressal mechanism.
NFSA, passed by the Parliament in September 2013 during UPA regime, aims to abolish the APL and below poverty line (BPL) criteria and uniformly provides 5 kg of wheat or rice to all beneficiaries every month at subsidised rate of Rs 1-3 per per kg.
“Kerala and Tamil Nadu are the only two states left where the NFSA has not been implemented yet. Despite being developed states, I don’t understand why they are not doing it,” Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said addressing a two-day national conference on PDS reforms.
The Kerala government had earlier said it would implement the NFSA from November but now the state is planning to do it from December. “Kerala says it does not have necessary infrastructure. I don’t understand if a developed state like Kerala says like this,” he said.
“If the two states do not implement, we will take stringent action. One option we have is to supply APL foodgrains to them at a higher rate or we completely stop the allocation. Let them buy foodgrains for APL families at the support price,” he warned.
Asking the states to speed up reforms in public distribution system (PDS) to curb leakage of foodgrains, Paswan said there could be problems in putting up necessary infrastructure for effective roll out of NFSA but those issues need to be sorted by both the Centre and states.
While the ration cards have been digitised 100 per cent in the country, states are slow in seeding them with Aadhar card, which would help in eliminating bogus beneficiaries, he said, and urged the states to fasten the process.
For instance in Madhya Pradesh, details about ration cards are visible on the portal but BPL category is also shown, while in most states the details are not updated in a proper format.
Urging the states to address gaps for achieving full computerisation of PDS, Paswan said 24.28 crore ration cards have been digitised in the country, of which only 65 per cent are seeded with Aadhaar numbers.
No initiative has been taken on Aadhaar seeding in Bihar, Manipur, Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Nagaland, he noted. In case of online foodgrains allocation, the minister said though 28 states/UTs have implemented, there are some issues like no clear bifurcation of NFSA and state specific schemes.
In automation of supply-chain management, Paswan said 15 states/UTs are yet to implement but 18 States/UTs that are implementing have not done it properly.
SMS registration facility is not available for getting alerts for events like stock released from state godowns, stock delivery at fair price shops etc. Monthly summary report is not available for SMSs sent to beneficiary, he added.
On automation of fair price shops (FPSs), the minister said that only 1.42 lakh shops have installed ePoS machines out of 5.28 lakh in 20 states/UTs.
About 13 states/UTs such as Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, J&K, Kerala, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Punjab and West Bengal — have not made much progress in last one year, he said.
The minister also asked states to ensure redressal mechanism is put in place to address NFSA related grievances.
The government provides Rs 1.30 lakh crore food subsidy. At present, 71 crore beneficiaries are covered under the NFSA against the target of 85 crores, he added.