To make the food security programme (FSP) viable, the food and civil supplies department of the state government has demanded the exclusion of families with an annual income of Rs 1 lakh. This will result in the exclusion of 77.93 lakh ration cards in Mumbai, its suburbs and Thane. The total exclusion in rural and urban areas of the state would be 1.52 crore and 45,000 people respectively.
In a presentation made before the group of ministers last week, the food and civil supplies department made it clear that the registration of beneficiaries, storage of food grains and distribution was a herculean task. The department hinted at the need to reconsider the eligibility criterion for the cover of the FSP. According to the proposed criterion, besides families with an annual income of Rs1 lakh, families of government employees, official contractors of the government, families with even one member paying income/professional tax, families with land holdings of over 1 hectare, and families who own three- or four-wheelers will not be eligible.
The exclusion of the existing cards from the FSP is higher in cities owning to rapid urbanisation. Districts with highest urbanisation such as Aurangabad, Jalgaon and Nagpur will witness highest exclusion of 11.28, 10.48 and 11.34 lakh people respectively. Thane district will, however, be the top gainer with 12.19 and 14.36 lakh from rural and urban populations included respectively.
Sudhir Mungantiwar, BJP leader, said that his party would oppose the exclusion of rural population from the cover. “Like in naxal-hit Bhamaragad in Gadchiroli district, 95% of the population is covered under the existing system. The government will have to ensure that none of the families are excluded in the FSP,” he said.
According to an officer from the department, the presentation made was open to changes based on suggestions and objections raised by elected representatives. “However, the burden of implementing the FSP on the state government will be robust. Apart from the annul expenditure of Rs600 crore towards transportation, distribution and handling, the government will also have to bear Rs85 crore towards filling 1,735 posts currently vacant in the department and Rs38 crore towards the expenditure on 792 posts in state- and district-level food security commission,” the officer said. He added that the state will have to spend another Rs95 crore on replacing existing ration cards with bar-coded cards.