The state has a Herculean task ahead. In order to roll out the food security programme, it will have to bring down the number of beneficiaries to 7 crore from the existing 8.52 crore beneficiaries.
A nine-member panel set up for the task met on Wednesday and decided to roll out the scheme by excluding families with an annual income of above Rs60,000.
Food and civil supply minister Anil Deshmukh said, “The exclusion is based on the self-declaration by the beneficiaries during a recent computerisation drive. We are determined to launch the programme by the third week of December.”
In a state of flux, the state had appointed a high-power committee headed by the chief minister to take a decision on how 40 lakh families (or 1.52 crore beneficiaries) would be dropped.
The food and civil supplies department had four options.
Of that two needed the data generated under the socio-economic survey by the central government, while the remaining depended on data collected under the computerisation programme conducted in the state in the past two years.
Officials from the department said using the Centre’s data would need more time, as the survey was in its last leg of compilation.
The high-power committee, thus, decided to go ahead with the data collected by the department to launch the programme.
According to officials, identifying the cardholders to be excluded based on the adopted method may take a few more weeks.
“The exclusion is expected to create furore among the people and the opposition may ride on the opportunity to target the government. Hence, the government has to be very careful on this front,” said an official from the department on condition of anonymity, as he is not authorised to speak to the media.
Had the government decided to continue the cover of the existing 8.52 crore, it would have ended up bearing an additional annual cost of Rs1,888 crore.
“We will now put an ‘eligible’ stamp ration cards for the food scheme. The bar-coded card distribution will take place in due course after that,” said Deshmukh.
The ambitious food security programme is expected to cost the state government Rs10,000 crore annually.