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New Food Bill may make BPL cards redundant

Published: 15th February 2013 08:19 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th February 2013 08:19 AM   |  A+A-

The Food Security Bill, in which the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) will replace the PDS, is likely to make identification of the beneficiaries using BPL cards redundant.

All food grain schemes including the Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) will be stopped or merged. The Centre is working on a model by which 67 per cent of the population -- 50 per cent urban population and 75 per cent rural population-- will receive the allotted food grains.

BPL cards which are used for identification for most schemes including the PDS and AAY will now become redundant as Union Minister for Food Processing K V Thomas claims this section of population is already covered under 67 per cent.

“Our effort is to keep out the upper crust and 67 per cent pretty much takes care of that,” he said. 

The Bill envisages 5 kg of rice, 5 kg of wheat and 5 kg coarse cereals per person at `3,2 and 1 respectively per month. This has caused some disaffection in some states which already run schemes for whole families under the AAY which offers 35 kg rice per family. Tamil Nadu and Kerala have already opposed the Bill at the meeting of states with Thomas.

The points of contention between the Centre and state are discrepancy in data, identification of beneficiaries, cash transfer and suspected decline in share of food grains.

 In Kerala, for instance, there are 15 lakh BPL families according to the Centre whereas  state data shows 20 lakh such families.

“We all know how BPL cards are issued. We are relying on more scientific data,” says a ministry official.

However, Tamilnadu Chief Minister  J Jayalalithaa has said the “states are in close and direct contact with the people, the choice of designing and implementing popular welfare schemes should be left to us.”

The Standing Committee has recommended food grains uniformly for both priority and general categories. Tamil Nadu for instance supplies 12 kg per person, Chhattisgarh supplies 35 Kg per family. These states are afraid that their quota of food grains will decline.  Tamil Nadu gets 2.96 lakh metric tonnes per month at present and under the TPDS it will probably get around 2.25 lakh metric tonnes.

The Bill which was introduced in the Lok Sabha in 2011 has already spawned similar Bills in states with Chhattisgarh becoming the first to pass one.

Thomas assured that concerns of the states would be taken care of and the quota wouldn’t decline. But the population covered according to him will go up in most states then the food grain supply would increase as well which means those states who at the moment get less grains will receive more and will have a domino effect on others.

At the moment the FCI has about 73 MMT in its godowns. For successful implementation of the Bill it requires at least 100 MMT. It also requires `20,000 crore to bridge that gap. Thomas has only `1 lakh crore earmarked for it while he requires Rs 1.20 lakh crore.

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