Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY), a central scheme, was launched in December 2000 for one crore poorest of the poor families. Initially, it was planned to provide 25 kg foodgrain per family per month, at Rs 2 a kg for wheat and Rs 3 a kg for rice. The quantity per family was raised to 35 kg a month from April 1, 2002, besides including an additional 50 lakh poorest of the poor families as beneficiaries. Later, on August 3, 2004, finance minister P Chidambaram, in his Budget speech, announced further expansion of the number of beneficiaries by another 50 lakh families. Thus, till date the total number of families to be identified is two crore.
An internal document of the Union ministry of food and consumer affairs says state governments have been slow in identifying the additional one crore families in the second and third phases. It doesnt mention the progress in identifying the beneficiaries of stage-1.
The document notes: Out of 35 states and Union territories, only 14, namely Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Meghalaya, Haryana and Jammu & Kashmir have completed the task of identification and issue of distinctive ration cards to the beneficiaries. This observation, however, relates to 50 lakh families announced way back in April 1, 2002.
It further states that out of 50 lakh families, 42.595 lakh have been identified by the state governments and Union territory administrations. Not only that, all these 42.595 lakh families are still not eligible to receive subsidised grain under AAY as only 27.891 lakh families have been issued distinctive ration cards, for which the central government is making allocation.
Regarding identification of 50 lakh additional families, as per the April 1, 2004 announcement, the document says Rajasthan has partially completed the job. The governments of Bihar and Orissa have intimated completion of identification of beneficiaries under this scheme. Assam, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Uttaranchal have partially completed the identification process. But only identification will not solve the problem. The beneficiaries need to be issued distinctive ration cards.
The fate of identification of another 50 lakh families, announced on August 3, 2004, is similar. In many states, work is yet to begin.
Theres a paradox here. The state governments have criticised the recent estimate of the Planning Commission on the number of families living below the poverty line (BPL). They have said the estimate is low and unrealistic. As a result, the Union food and consumer affairs ministry has asked the Planning Commission to rework the estimate.
General guidelines for selection of BPL families were issued by the Centre in June 1997 and the states were advised that the quinquennial survey of the (erstwhile) Union ministry of rural areas and employment could be the basis, but that the overall number identified should be limited to state-wise poverty estimate (1993-94) of the Planning Commission.
The document notes that some states and Union territories are yet to complete identification of BPL families. These are Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Rajasthan, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Chandigarh, Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Lakshadweep. Besides, there are several cases of issuance of bogus ration cards.