The Comptroller and Auditor General today rapped the Centre for delay in implementation of the National Food Security Act (NFSA) and extending its rollout thrice without Parliament approval.
The CAG has evaluated preparedness of 18 states/UTs for implementation of the law in its audit report released today. However, the NFSA — which came into force from July 5, 2013 — has been rolled out in 33 states/UTs so far.
Noting that states have not identified beneficiaries in a systematic manner, the CAG blamed the Centre for failing to resolve the issues raised by states during the formulation phase and also after enactment of the law, which led to delay in implementation in several states and union territories.
NFSA aims to provide foodgrains to 81.34 crore beneficiaries at highly subsidised rate of Rs 1-3 per kg. The law seeks to bring about changes in PDS that suffered from several deficiencies.
“After two and a half years since NFSA came into force, only 18 states/UTs reported to have started implementation of NFSA… Only 51 per cent of the eligible beneficiaries had been identified and 49 per cent beneficiaries were yet to be identified in all states/UTs,” the CAG said in the report.
It attributed the delay in implementation of NFSA by non-implementing states/UTs to non-finalisation of a number of beneficiaries under the socio-economic caste census, lack of infrastructure facilities, insufficient funds and manpower.
“As many of the states/UTs had not reported status of their preparedness, the ministry extended the timeline for implementation of NFSA thrice. The extension of time schedule without the approval of Parliament as there was no enabling provision in NFSA was irregular,” it said.
Most implementing states did not identify the poorest of the poor called Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) and priority households’ beneficiaries as per the provisions of the NFSA, but used the old database for extending the benefits, the CAG noted.
“Some states merely re-stamped their old ration cards as NFSA compliant and that too without providing for women empowerment as laid down in NFSA… What had effectively been adopted in the states was the old system, re-christened for projecting themselves as NFSA compliant,” it said further.
In Himachal Pradesh, the CAG said 6.9 lakh old ration cards were stamped as priority households and AAY households and re-issued as NFSA compliant. In Karnataka, 8.90 lakh bogus and ineligible ration cards were found in the existing system.
“Instead of cancelling these bogus or ineligible ration cards, state governments continued to issue foodgrains to them. In Maharashtra, the ration cards were revalidated by merely affixing stamps on the existing ration cards under different categories,” the CAG noted.
To check anomalies in identification of beneficiaries, the CAG recommended that the Centre may issue, in consultation with state governments, guidelines on identification of beneficiaries to maintain transparency.
It also said the Centre “must assure itself of the actual beneficiaries by the states/UTs by following transparent processes before allowing them revised/enhanced entitlements.”