It is no secret that the Congress wants the non-Congress-ruled states to implement the National Food Security Act fast. The belief that the measure would yield handsome poll dividends is behind the party’s sense of urgency.
But the Samajwadi Party government in UP is not about to rush into enforcing the showpiece central legislation, passed during the monsoon session of Parliament, without being in full readiness for it.
For now, the state government has decided to go strictly by the provisions of the act guaranteeing food to the poorest of poor in rural and urban areas. This means the benefits of the act are unlikely to be delivered before the 2014 Lok Sabha election.
Principal secretary, food and civil supplies, Dipak Trivedi said the government had already prepared a roadmap for the scheme and, as per the provisions of the act, it would be implemented by July 2014.
Trivedi said the central government had fixed a target of July 2014 for the identification of beneficiaries through the 2013 caste census. Since the caste census was yet to be completed in all the districts, instructions had been issued to expedite the process so that the act could be implemented in the state.
Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav, too, has made it clear that proper and foolproof administrative arrangements would be made to ensure effective implementation of the act.
The government has also set a deadline of May 15, 2014 for the district magistrates for the selection of fair price shops for distribution of foodgrains and other commodities.
The July deadline is not quite music to the Congress’ ears. With an emphasis on the ‘do-it-now’ approach, Congress leader Maroof Khan on Sunday said the delay in UP was deliberate.
He said if the act could be implemented in other states, why was there a governmental hiccup in UP. The UPCC organised a rally on the issue in Lucknow on November 21.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has also been carrying on a campaign against the UP government.
During his last four rallies at Aligarh, Rampur, Hamirpur and Salempur (Deoria), he launched a frontal attack on the ruling party for denying benefits of the scheme to the poor.
Owing to the past experience of good poll results in the past through loan waiver scheme and NREGS, the Congress leaders believe the food security act could also similarly help in reaping an electoral harvest again.
Samajwadi Par t y chief Mulayam Singh Yadav had dubbed the scheme an election ploy of the Congress.
The main opposition Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has accused the Congress of misleading the people on the issue.
Mayawati, the BSP chief, has said the Congress launched the agitation in “non-Congress-ruled states” to deceive the people.
Mayawati said in view of poor financial conditions of the states, the central government should fund the implementation of the act. She also said the scheme had been half-heartedly enforced in Congress-ruled states.
The UP gover nment has repeatedly raised this demand for funding with the centre. According to information, the state has nearly 37.7% (7.38 crore) of its population living below the poverty line (BPL) and it was a stupendous task to hastily cover the beneficiaries, said a senior officer of the food department.
The state has also asked for full reimbursement of additional expenses on implementation of the central government project.