Chhattisgarh, which pioneered the food security law in the country in 2012 and is credited with dramatically improving its public distribution system, has come to realise that the model is flawed. The state government has now decided to shift the entitlement of highly subsidised grain and other food items to individuals, from households at present, a move that would cut the grain requirement for the scheme by 25-30%.
The decision to redefine beneficiaries of the state’s food security scheme is in the wake of the huge burden on the exchequer given that 90% of the state’s 2.5 crore population is currently entitled to subsidised food. Also, PDS grain is getting diverted to the open market on a massive scale.
At present, close to 1.6 million tonnes of rice and about half a million tonnes of wheat are distributed through PDS in the state annually.
“Since the passage of the food security legislation, many joint families have started to split their families for getting higher amounts of foodgrains as entitlement under the PDS,” Anil Tuteja, MD, Chhattisgarh State Civil Supplies Corporation told FE.
The official added that the state cabinet could shortly consider the changes proposed in the food security law to ensure that every deserving individual gets 7 kg of subsidised foodgrain per month instead of the current system of providing 35 kg of grain to each of the state’s 62 lakh beneficiary households. As per the census 2011, Chhattisgarh had 56 lakh families.
The Chhattisgarh government’s food subsidy budget is estimated to rise to R4,600 crore in the current fiscal from R3,500 crore in the last fiscal.
Since the passage of food security legislation in December 2012, the state’s food subsidy budget has increased manifold — it was R900 crore in 2012-13.
Under the state food security legislation, about 16.4 lakh “most vulnerable” Antyodaya households get 35 kg of grain, mostly consisting of rice and wheat, at Rs 1 per kg besides 2 kg of iodised salt free and 2 kg black gram and pulses at Rs 5 and Rs 10 per kg, respectively.
Besides, the 46 lakh “priority households”, mostly belonging to landless labourers, small and marginal farmers, workers in urban the informal sector and households of construction workers, are entitled 35 kg foodgrains at Rs 2 kg while they also get free salt, black gram and pulses at the same quantity and prices as Antoyodaya households get.
Only about 10% of the state’s population — consisting of those who pay income tax, households in non-scheduled areas that own more than 4 hectares of irrigated land or 8 hectares of non-irrigated land and households in urban areas that own a pucca house with an area more than 1,000 sq ft and are liable to pay property tax — are exempted from PDS.
There are 11,000 PDS shops mostly run by self-help groups located across 27 districts in the state.
The Centre’s food security law, which will be rolled out across the country by April 2015, envisages providing rice, wheat and coarse grain at Rs 3, Rs 2 and Rs 1 per kg, respectively, to roughly 84 crore people. The national law defines the beneficiaries as individuals and the grain entitlement per person is 5 kg a month.