Even as majority of states are yet to roll out the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013, a research paper has exhorted the government against ‘hurrying up’ with implementing the process, without satisfying the pre-conditions of end-to-end computerisation of the public distribution system (PDS) by each state and finalisation of the beneficiaries lists.
The paper has suggested direct cash transfer to beneficiaries for plugging leakages in place of physical distribution of grains through PDS.
“The answer lies in substituting physical distribution of grains with conditional cash transfers, based on the platform created by the Aadhaar,” a paper authored by Ashok Gulati and Shweta Saini of Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER) has said.
The paper titled ‘NFSA: challenges, buffer stocking and the way forward’ says the scheme of cash transfers would mean larger savings and lesser leakages.
“Such savings when ploughed back into agriculture as investments in irrigation, agricultural research and development, roads, etc, can immensely benefit the sector and provide sustainable food security to the people of this country,” the paper said.
States with substantial number of poor population, including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and Odisha, have not yet put the lists of beneficiaries online, delaying implementation of NFSA. Even states such as Maharashtra and Rajasthan which earlier initiated implementation of food security legislation have not put the full beneficiaries list online.
Only a few states and UTs — Delhi, Chandigarh, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana — have completed the computerisation of beneficiary lists. The legislation aims to provide highly subsidised rice, wheat and coarse grains to 67% of the country’s population.
The ICRIER paper has noted that the states are advised to use the results of an on-going household-level survey called Socio-Economic and Caste Census, to identify beneficiaries.