Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa said Sunday her party will vote against the food security Bill if the amendments it suggested to safeguard the state’s interest were not incorporated into it.
She also shot off another letter to the Prime Minister to flag her concerns, on top of which is the issue of pricing the additional allocation of foodgrain.
The Centre had heeded to Jaya’s earlier suggestion on having a guarantee in the Bill to assure that present allocation of foodgrain under PDS would not be reduced. The quantum that each state is eligible for has also been specified in the newly introduced Schedule IV. However, the proviso that the Union government introduced also empowered it to fix the issue price of additional allocation.
According to Jayalalithaa, this could mean 14.90 lakh metric tonne of rice could be priced at the economic cost of rice — Rs 19.11 per kg — which translates into a huge additional annual burden of about Rs 1,000 crore for Tamil Nadu. The state already spends about Rs 5,000 crore a year on food subsidies, including Rs 2,525 crore on free rice.
“Given the fiscal impact on the states and the sensitivity of the issue, I strongly urge you to provide a legally-binding assurance that the difference in quantity between what has been assured... and what is eligible...will be supplied to the states at the price of Rs 3 per kg or at least at the current price applicable for Above Poverty Line families of Rs 8.30 per kg,” she said in her letter to Manmohan Singh, seeking further amendment to clearly specify the issue price.
She reiterated her demand for an amendment to make it incumbent on the Government of India to implement all necessary measures, including import of foodgrain when warranted, to ensure continued supply and not leave the states to fend for themselves after providing limited financial assistance. “A provision to obligate the Central government to import food in times of scarcity is very crucial to make this legislation truly a food security Act,” she said in the letter.
Under the Bill, the Centre can introduce cash