States begin work to implement food law

  • Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
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  • Updated: Aug 16, 2013 20:16 IST

Stalled Parliament may have led to delay in discussing the food security bill but the states are getting ready to identify the beneficiaries but on different criteria.

Implementing the Central law would mean saving huge state food subsidies for many BJP-ruled states like Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, a reason for quick action.

The law was brought into force in July by the UPA government through an ordinance to provide subsidised food grains to around 67% of India’s population. Only Tamil Nadu has refused to implement the law while others are on board, though with some reservations.

Madhya Pradesh will apply exclusion criteria based on its survey of around 6.8 crore households in rural areas to identify the beneficiaries.

“Identifying beneficiaries will not be difficult for us. We have a detailed survey of each rural household in the state,” said Aruna Sharma, additional chief secretary, Madhya Pradesh.

Bihar on other hand had opted for a much easier approach where in it would provide subsidised food to all except the income tax payees, large landholders and the salaried class. The reason is simple - around 80% of the population - 86.7% in rural areas and 73.16 % in urban areas - will be covered under the new law.

For Delhi the task at hand is much easier as only 38% of the population or 9.2 million people will get covered with 44.8% in urban areas and 31% in rural areas. “All those having a below poverty line ration cards and the beneficiaries of the Annapurna Yojana will get subsidised ration,” a Delhi government official said.

Chhattisgarh, which has already enacted its own food security law, would be quick to implement the Central law and has started the process to identify the beneficiaries. “It is a win-win situation for us,” a senior state government official said, adding implementing the Central law will mean saving on the state’s food subsidy bill. Around 84.27% of rural population in the state will be covered under the law. 

Even though Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi had raised the issue of different parameters to identify the beneficiaries in states, planning commission officials say there is no option.

“Even for the existing public distribution system the states have freedom to identify beneficiaries as per their wish. The Central provides subsidy as per the commission’s state-wise cap for the poor,” a plan panel official said.

The panel had capped state-wise inclusion ratio for the food security ordinance on the basis of consumption expenditure survey of the National Sample Survey Office (NSSO). The panel has taken per capita food requirement of 2,500 calories as a bench-mark to determine the ratio. “It should not be considered food deprivation line,” an official said. For determining poverty numbers, the per capita food consumption requirement of 1,700 calories is considered. 


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