Launched on August 15, 2007, the populist atta-dal scheme of the SAD-BJP government helped it gain a historic second term in office after the 2012 assembly elections.
Now, to garner votes in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, Punjab was among the first non-Congress states to implement the National Food Security scheme after tweaking and merging with its own version. However, the state has missed its deadline of launching the scheme by this Republic Day. However, its first challenge is to launch the scheme, which seems to be lost in logistics.
The new scheme, which aims to cover 1.4 crore people, will double the number of beneficiary households to 31 lakh from the 15.4 lakh now. To ‘improve’ the Centre’s Act, the government announced that wheat will be sold at Rs 1 a kg and each family will be provided 2.5-kg dal at Rs 20 per kg. The cash-strapped state will shell out Rs 400 crore annually on the food subsidy.
District officials say that the response has been overwhelming and the process of verification of applications is on. In Patiala district, 1.8 lakh applications have been received, from segments in Patiala, Samana, Patran, and Nabha. Of these, 1.5 lakh have been accepted with 35,744 rejections. In other districts too, forms are being verified and objections invited.
“The response has been overwhelming. Teams comprising an anganwari worker and the panchayat secretary went door-to-door to verify claims. January 25 was the last day for filing objections. The lists will be finalised soon,” said a district official in Fazilka. Officials in Muktsar said they are verifying forms, after which they will be uploaded on the government’s website.
Guidelines of the National Food Security scheme mandate that 54% rural population and 44% urban population has to be covered as priority households. To identify another 16 lakh families — 15.4 lakh families are already covered under the old atta-dal scheme — the Punjab food and civil supply department has fixed Rs 60,000 annual income, agricultural land less than 2.5 acres etc. as the criteria.
The department had earlier claimed that forms were to be verified from December 16-30 and the list of all eligible families would be notified on December 31. Objections would be accepted from January 1-10, 2014 and disposed from January 13-20. The final list was to be released by January 26.
Cap of 46% coverage on each district?
Punjab food and civil supplies secretary DS Grewal is learnt to have passed verbal orders to all deputy commissioners on Friday to enroll 46% of the total population, including the existing blue-card holders.“Now, only a handful of families will be added. Since no guidelines have been given for rejection, there will be arbitrary selection of beneficiaries,” an official said on the condition of anonymity. Grewal could not be contacted.