Centre to offer cheap grains to 3.9 million more people
The Centre will offer cheap grains to an additional 3.9 million people, who qualify for subsidized ration under the National Food Security Act 2013 but are out of the public distribution system due to inclusion errors, Union consumer affairs, food and public distribution minister Ram Vilas Paswan has said.
Paswan said his ministry is on a mission to ensure no beneficiary is left behind and has asked all states to issue ration cards to those excluded and send the data so that foodgrains could be allotted to them. Bihar alone has 1.4 million such people, Paswan said.
Once states send their lists, the beneficiaries would get additional ration under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana, a welfare package announced on March 26 to deal with the Covid-19 crisis.
“We have asked states to send us the list. We are ready to meet all additional foodgrain requirements. We have enough stocks. Our aim is to ensure everybody has food,” Paswan said. Federally held food stocks currently stand at 56 million tonnes, while 6 million tonne are needed for the next three months, he added.
Under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana, beneficiaries are being given double their current food entitlement free of cost for the next three months.
Nearly 810 million qualify for subsidised foodgrains under the food security law, under which beneficiaries get 5kg of wheat or rice covers per person per month. The Act applies to 67% of the population (75% in rural areas and 50% in urban pockets).
According to the minister, 3.9 million of these 810 million are still outside the ration system due inclusion and enumeration errors. “State governments have to give them ration cards so that we can release their ration,” he said.
The Right to Food Campaign activists have said the government should universalize the country’s public distribution system. This implies that nobody is excluded, but the rich automatically exclude themselves.
Paswan said food allocation to beneficiaries was in accordance with the National Food Security Act. A revision of the number of beneficiaries could be done only during the next Census slated for 2021, according to section 9 of the Act.
The Covid-19 lockdown announced on March 24 pushed thousands of internal migrants, especially in cities, into a food crisis. During the initial phase of the lockdown, they were virtually outside the country’s public (grains) distribution network or PDS that offers that offers cheap grains. Many states have now set up community kitchens to serve them.
Subsidized grains are only available to beneficiaries who have eligible ration cards. “Most migrants in cities either do not have them or have with their families back in their home states,” said Deepa Sinha, who teaches at Delhi’s Ambedkar University.
Paswan has also approved the on-boarding of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Dadra & Nagar Haveli and Daman & Diu the “One Nation One Ration Card” plan. Twelve states are already on board an interstate cluster under the plan. These are Andhra Pradesh, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Kerala, Karnataka Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Telangana and Tripura. Reviewing the progress of the implementation of national portability of ration card holders under the “One Nation One Ration Card” plan, Paswan monitored the technical readiness of these new states.