The government is likely to extend the deadline for country-wide rollout of the National Food Security Act, 2013, further, as the majority of states are yet to complete computerisation of foodgrain distribution and transportation and put beneficiary lists online.
In October 2014, the government had given six months to states for completion of Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) computerisation so that the food security legislation, which envisages providing highly subsidised foodgrain to 67% of the population, could be rolled out by the start of the next fiscal.
“We want states to complete computerisation before the rollout of the food security Act so that diversion of foodgrain from PDS can be curbed,” Union consumer affairs, food and public distribution minister Ram Vilas Paswan told FE.
He said the majority of states were yet to digitise the data regarding the lists of beneficiaries, foodgrain godowns and fair price shops.
Paswan said states including those with higher number of poor families like Bihar and Uttar Pradesh have not put the entire list of beneficiaries under the food security legislation online. “We are not able to stop diversion of grain because of lack of transparency in PDS beneficiary list and non-completion of computerisation of grain delivery and transportation mechanism,’ he said.
Eleven states and Union Territories — Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Delhi and Chandigarh — have so far implemented the Act, some fully and others partially.
However, many of the larger states, including Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, with a substantial poor population, are yet to take the plunge. These states have told the food ministry that they will roll out the legislation by June 2015
This will be the third time the government has deferred the pan-India roll-out of the Act. The legislation was passed in Parliament in July, 2013 and the states were initially given a year’s time to complete the roll- out.
The deadline was later extended by three months till October 4, 2014, as many states could not put in place infrastructure such as better grain storage facilities and identify beneficiaries.
Paswan is visiting Assam and Tripura to review the existing TPDS. The second meeting of the parliamentary consultative committee on consumer affairs, food and public distribution was held on Thursday and Friday.
Meanwhile, the high-level committee (HLC) set up to suggest measures for restructuring the Food Corporation of India has recently suggested in its report a ‘relook’ at the current coverage of 67% of population under the food security legislation. The Act envisages providing 5 kg per person per month of foodgrain at Rs 3, Rs 2 and Rs 1 per kg for rice, wheat and coarse cereals respectively.
The HLC had stated that 67% coverage of population is on the higher side, and should be brought down to around 40%, which will comfortably cover Below Poverty Line (BPL) families and some even above that, and that 5 kg grain per person to priority households is actually making BPL households worse off, who used to get 7 kg per person under the TPDS.