BHUBANESWAR: Even as the State Government launched its own food security scheme in October 2018 to cover poor people ‘left out’ of the National Food Security Act (NFSA), over 3.76 lakh beneficiaries, on an average, are not using their monthly quota of rice for more than a year.
What is more baffling is that the State Government has to accommodate additional beneficiaries under the food security net out of its own pocket while Central assistance under NFSA is not fully utilised. Drawing the attention of the State Government to the under-utilisation of Central assistance, the State Food Commission has suggested verification of the existence of ration card holders who have constantly failed to utilise their monthly quota.
An estimated 3,2641,800 primary households out of 4,19,74,218 population (as per 2011 census) are covered under the food security programme that was launched in 2015. Each of the beneficiaries is entitled to five kg of highly subsidised rice at Rs 1 per kg.
It has been observed that lakhs of identified beneficiaries are not availing the rice since April, 2018. While the gap between the authorised persons and the actual beneficiaries assisted during April last year was 2,57,385, it jumped to 8,78,898 in March 2019. Similar is the situation in the State Food Security Scheme. On average, 79 per cent of the identified ‘left out’ poor people have lifted the food grains in the last six months.
Launching the scheme on October 2 last year, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik had announced that 25 lakh additional poor people will get rice at Rs 1 a kg. While 17,32,387 people availed the rice in October last year, the number of beneficiaries increased to 23,04,340 in March 2019.
The allocation order for the months of June and July 2019 by Food Supplies and Consumer Welfare Department stated that 3,23,08,672 beneficiaries will be covered under NFSA during each month. This suggests that 3,33,128 beneficiaries are not going to use the subsidised rice. Non-utilisation of the subsidised rice by such a huge number of people has given rise to suspicion about their existence. As ration cards under NFSA were distributed from November 2015, many of the beneficiaries might have passed away.
Assuming that at least 10 lakh beneficiaries might have died, the Odisha State Food Commission has suggested to the State Government to find out existence of these beneficiaries from the Ration Card Management System (RCMS) centres which keep tabs of any casualty as poor families are financially assisted under Harishandra Sahayata Yojana for performing final rites in case of death of any family member.