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HindustanTimes Fri,22 Aug 2014

Food bill in Maha: Ministers wary

Ketaki Ghoghe, Hindustan Times  Mumbai, August 30, 2013
First Published: 09:11 IST(30/8/2013) | Last Updated: 09:17 IST(30/8/2013)

Implementation of the project likely to put an additional burden of ` 1,000 cr on the state exchequer.

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While the UPA is keen on implementing the food security programme in the country, leaders from Maharashtra, one of the biggest Congress-ruled states in the country, are confused and wary about it.

Several members of the state Cabinet have expressed concerns over the effective implementation of the ambitious scheme through the existing public distribution system that is plagued by corruption.

The Cabinet ministers, who attended a detailed presentation late on Wednesday evening on the proposed food security programme to be launched in Maharashtra, asked the food and civil supplies department to plug the loopholes.

The scheme will put the already-strained state exchequer back by Rs800 to Rs1,000 crore annually.

For a state balancing a debt poised to reach Rs2.85 lakh crore, where the debt amount is spent on interest payments rather than creating new assets, along with drought, the spending could be a sore point.

“We might have to reevaluate our spending for the year,” said an official, present at the meeting.

“In an election year, we don’t want the flagship programme of the government to fall flat on its face. The food and civil supplies department has no wherewithal to implement the scheme,” said another senior minister.

The department will have to convert the existing ration cards into bar-coded ones, identify the beneficiaries, and computerise the PDS system.

Another concern is the identification of beneficiaries. During the presentation, it was pointed out that nearly 1.5 crore existing beneficiaries, a considerable section of the urban poor, could get left out of the scheme in the election year.


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