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Economy Jul 5, 2013

Karnataka, Chhattisgarh may implement food law early

New Delhi: Several states including Congress-ruled Karnataka, BJP-led Chhattisgarh and Samajwadi Party-ruled Uttar Pradesh and JD(U)-run Bihar could see early roll out of the Centre's new food security programme.

Billed as the world's largest social welfare programme, Karnataka could take a lead in implementing it given the fact the Congress has come to power there with the promise of delivering 10 kg of rice at Rs 1 per kilo per month.

Cheaper grains for the poor. Reuters

Cheaper grains for the poor. Reuters

Infact, the government sources said the state chief minister Siddaramaiah had recently met the Union Food Minister KV Thomas seeking higher allocation of rice to fulfill the election manifesto. He was, however, asked to wait for the clearance of food security ordinance.

BJP-ruled Chattisgarh is already implementing a similar programme, and it would be easier for the state to follow the new food security provisions of the Central government, thereby reducing its subsidy burden substantially.

Tamil Nadu is also implementing the universal Public Distribution System (PDS) and thinking in the Food Ministry is that Chief Minister Jayalalithaa could utilise the opportunity to cut the state expenditure on its food programme.

This is notwithstanding the AIADMK supremo's criticism of the ambitious measure dubbing it as a political gimmick.

Government sources said that the ball is in the court of Chief Ministers Akhilesh Yadav and Nitish Kumar to take a call on the implementation of the programme.

The government refrain is that if there is a political will in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the state governments will lose no time in implementing the measure.

As per the ordinance signed by President Pranab Mukherjee, the new food security programme should be rolled out within six months. The rules for implementation of this programme will be framed separately by the Centre and the respective state governments.

"The programme will be implemented within six months. We have informed the states. Whichever state is prepared and has identified the beneficiaries and wants to implement at the earliest, we welcome them," Thomas said.

The Union food minister attempted to allay apprehensions that there will be bottlenecks in its implementation.

"All parameters have been discussed in detail with states, which have also been given copies of the bill as amended," Thomas said.

However, government sources said the big challenge in proper implementation of the programme is identification of beneficiaries, which is left entirely to the state governments.

In states like Andhra Pradesh, public distribution system (PDS) is functioning better but the state has issued more ration cards than its total population. The state needs to freshly identify the beneficiaries for implementing this new programme and this exercise would take time, sources said.

Brushing aside political opposition, the government had on Wednesday decided to issue the ordinance to give nation's two-third population the right to get 5 kg of foodgrains every month at highly subsidised rates of Rs 1-3 per kg.

Thomas said the food security programme, when implemented, will be the biggest in the world with the government spending an estimated Rs 125,000 crore annually on supply of about 62 million tonnes of rice, wheat and coarse cereals to 67 percent of the population.

The validity of an ordinance expires six weeks from the commencement of Parliament session.

PTI


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