The National Food Security Act (NFSA), which guarantees foodgrains at nominal prices to the poor, was on Saturday launched in some districts of Bihar, making it the first state to do so.
Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, who addressed a function marking the symbolic launch of the scheme, said 84% (6.90 crore) of the rural below poverty line (BPL) people and 74% (70 lakh) urban BPL population would be the beneficiaries of the scheme.
For now, it has been launched for Patna, Nalanda, Gopalganj and Purnia districts. The statewide launch would happen around February 20-21, when the Food Corporation of India would allocate the state foodgrains.
In an important development, Nitish promised that 40 lakh BPL families, which were left out in a survey that determines eligibility for food security scheme, will be entitled to subsidised foodgrains.
The beneficiaries would get 5 kg of foodgrains every month--- wheat at Rs 2 per kg and rice at Rs 3 per kg. Under NFSA, each beneficiary is a unit, unlike in targeted PDS, where the family is treated as a unit.
"Although 5 kg of foodgrains is not enough, it would spare some money for the poor to be spent on other nutrients," Kumar said.
A web portal of Bihar state food corporation was also launched to ensure transparency through GPS tracking and monitoring of vehicles carrying foodgrains from godowns to PDS dealers.
It would also help update stock position and lifting, besides providing a variety of other related information.
Nitish said the NFSA would put an additional annual burden of nearly Rs 800 crore on the state government--- Rs 400 crore on commissions to PDS dealers and Rs 388 crore on doorstep delivery to PDS dealers.
"The Centre is just paying the cost of foodgrain meant for NFSA," he added.
Kumar hit out at the Centre for fixing the number of BPL families in Bihar at 65-70 lakh, while three surveys commissioned by the state government had put the number at 1.40 crore.