More than three years after Parliament passed the National Food Security Act, all the 36 states and Union Territories have finally rolled out the mega food security legislation. Tamil Nadu, the last state to give its nod for the central Act, on Tuesday commenced implementation of the legislation aimed at providing highly subsidised foodgrain to at least one-third of the country’s population.
With the exception of Tamil Nadu and Kerala, all other states and UTs by the end of June this year had implemented the food security Act. Although the Act was to be implemented within a year after its passage in Parliament in September 2013, many states did not role out the legislation citing time taken for scrutinising the beneficiaries’ list.
Kerala recently rolled out the food security Act which now covers around 80 crore people across the country. Food ministry officials said the government would now focus on expanding PDS reforms which have been patchy across the states.
During last year, Kerala and Tamil Nadu had been seeking more time for implementing of the legislation as these two states wanted to complete end-to-end computerisation of their public distribution system (PDS) and seeding of Aadhaar numbers of the beneficiaries.
Recently, the food ministry also informed those states not implementing the food security legislation that the Centre will supply foodgrain to these states at minimum support price (MSP) derived prices instead of highly subsidised NFSA prices of R3, R2 and R1 for per kg for rice, wheat and coarse grains, respectively.
It implies that these states would have had to pay R22.54 a kg for rice for their monthly allocations under the ‘above poverty line’ (APL) category, as against the R8.30 a kg they are paying at present. For Tamil Nadu, it would have have resulted in an additional expenditure of R2,730 crore besides the state would bear an expenditure of R2,393 crore annually on its universal PDS.
According to Tamil Nadu government official, the southern state has started to implement the Act and also would continue with universal PDS.
While its monthly off take of rice under PDS, including Antyodaya Anna Yojana was about 3.23 lakh tonne, the Centre has been providing 2.96 lakh tonne monthly till now.
Under NFSA, more than 80 crore people would now get 5 kg each of wheat, rice or coarse grains monthly. Earlier, under the targeted public distribution system (TPDS), 35 kg of subsidised foodgrain was provided to each of the 14 crore below poverty line (BPL) families monthly. Annual requirement of foodgrain for implementing the NFSA is around 50-55 million tonnes.