The National Food Security Act, a landmark welfare legislation enacted by the UPA and upheld by the ruling NDA, risks being stalled in a majority of states which have failed to modernise their pilferage-prone distribution networks.
Food minister Ram Vilas Paswan, in a letter, has told states continuing to run on old, rickety systems that they could not be given subsidy to roll out the law, since this itself was a violation of the food law. This means the law cannot be implemented in about 26 states and union territories.
The food security law aims cheap food handouts to two-thirds of the population or about 800 millions. Each entitled person will get 5 kg of rice, wheat or millets at Rs 3, Rs 2 and Rs 1 a month. According to a new report, India continues to be home to the largest number of poorly fed people among 129 countries monitored by the Food and Agriculture Organisation.
The food security law mandates that states need to adhere to specific parameters, such as warehouse-to-ration shop computerisation and creating online databases of beneficiaries, within a year. The food ministry had extended the deadline several times to give states time to comply with the new norms.
Only 11 states have put in place some mechanisms that are in line with provisions laid out in the Act. “We have to conform to the provisions of the Act. We cannot allow implementation in states which violate provisions of the Act itself,” Paswan told HT.
Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra have fully implemented the Act while Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Chandigarh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar have done so only partially.