After more than one-and-a-half years delay, the countrywide roll-out of the National Food Security Act (NFSA) would be nearly achieved by April 2016. Food minister Ram Vilas Paswan on Thursday said that with the exception of Tamil Nadu, all the states and Union territories (UTs) would implement the food security law, which envisages providing highly subsidised foodgrains to around 82 crore people.
“Till now 25 states and UTs have implemented the food security Act. By April 2016, it is likely to be implemented in all remaining states or UTs with the exception of Tamil Nadu,” Paswan said while listing out the achievements of the food and consumer affairs ministry in the past 19 months.
At present, more than 55 crore people have been covered under NFSA, which guarantees each individual to get five kg of rice, wheat and coarse grains at R3, R2 and R1 per kg monthly. The countrywide roll-out of NFSA was to be originally implemented in October 2014.
States like Gujarat and Jammu & Kashmir and a couple of north-eastern states would commence roll-out of the food security legislation by the end of this fiscal.
A high-level committee headed by senior BJP leader and former food minister Shanta Kumar had recommended a second look at NFSA, its commitments and implementation.
The committee argued that the coverage of food security should be brought down to around 40% of the population, which will comfortably cover families below the poverty line (BPL) and some from even among above poverty line sections. Although the committee said the NFSA in the present form could undermine the targeted public distribution system, now running creditably in many states, the Prime Minister himself had ruled out accepting these proposals.
Buffer stock for pulses
Paswan also said that the agencies like Food Corporation of India (FCI) and Nafed have purchased over 15,000 tonne of pulses so far from farmers to create a buffer stock. Last month, the Cabinet had approved creation of 1.5 lakh tonne of buffer stock this year as retail prices of tur and urad are still ruling high at around R160 per kg across the country.
“The pulses issue is a challenge for us. There has been a gap in supply and demand. The demand is growing every year while the production is not increasing,” Paswan said. State-owned PSUs have imported 5,000 tonne of tur dal and have floated tenders for an additional 10,000 tonne, he said. Private traders have imported 4.4 million tonnes of pulses so far this fiscal. “We have procured over 15,000 tonne of dals directly from farmers in Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka,” Paswan noted.
Ministry for food fortification
In order to provide nutritional security to the economically vulnerable sections of society and to have better targeting of other welfare schemes for the poor, the food ministry has been consulting human resources development, health and social justice ministries for exploring possibilities of providing fortified food through PDS and other social sector schemes.
“We are exploring possibilities of providing fortified food under social sector schemes,” Paswan noted.
An inter-ministerial committee chaired by food and consumer affairs minister had earlier not only decided continuation of foodgrain allocation for other welfare schemes but also recommended for providing milk and eggs, pulses etc. under the schemes.
Ram Vilas Paswan for lifting ban on khesari dal
Food minister Ram Vilas Paswan on Thursday supported lifting the ban on khesari dal if found fit for human consumption. He said that production of this dal, which was banned for cultivation five decades back, could help reduce quantum of pulse imports. Khesari dal was banned in 1961 in most of the states due to health reasons. Food safety regulator FSSAI has sought health ministry’s approval to hold public consultation on approval of three varieties of Khesari dal — Ratan, Prateek and Mahateara developed by Indian Council for Agricultural Research. “If these varieties prove to be fit for human consumption, I think its cultivation should be allowed. This will help reduce stress on pulses production and imports,” Paswan said. Endorsing the variety of pulse mostly grown in rabi season in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal, Paswan said, “Khesari dal tastes good and it can be grown easily with less expense. It is grown mainly in north India”. fe Bureau