CHANDIGARH: The home delivery of five kilograms of wheat flour (atta) to 1.54 crore beneficiaries from October 1 was approved by the Punjab cabinet here on Monday. This shall be implemented across the state in three phases.
Following the proposal of the Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs department to introduce home delivery of atta under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), the entire state has been divided into eight zones and the service shall commence in one zone in the first phase, in two zones in the second phase and in the remaining five zones in the last and third phase.
An officer of the Chief Minister’s Office said that the state government shall offer, to every beneficiary enrolled under NFSA, the option of home delivery of atta. Any beneficiary, who wishes to physically collect his entitlement of wheat from a Fair Price Shop (FPS), shall have an option to opt out through a suitable IT intervention freely available to him. The delivery cycle of distribution shall now be changed from quarterly cycle to monthly cycle.
The home delivery service shall introduce the concept of Mobile Fair Price Shops (MPS). The MPS shall be a transport vehicle, preferably fitted with GPS facility and cameras to live stream the handing over of atta to the beneficiary. It shall mandatorily have the facility of weighing scales in order to satisfy the customer about the weight of the atta before it is delivered. All mandatory requirements of biometric verification, handing over of printed weight slip to the beneficiary, etc. shall be provided by the MPS. All MPS licences shall be issued by the Department of Food, Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs. An MPS shall enjoy a status similar to the ‘Fair Price Shop’ under the NFSA. Only MPS shall offer the facility of home delivery of atta. FPS shall continue to offer the existing facility of delivery of wheat to the beneficiary, and the beneficiary will have to visit the FPS and physically collect the entitled quantity of wheat.
Portability between any MPS and FPS shall continue to be allowed. Where the beneficiary has chosen the facility of home delivery of atta, it shall also automatically imply that the beneficiary has chosen an MPS as the favoured Fair Price Shop and the MPS shall then be tasked with the responsibility of delivering the allocated quantity of atta at the doorstep of such a beneficiary.
Wherever atta is being given to a beneficiary, the existing amount of Rs 2 per kg being charged from the beneficiary shall be collected by the MPS. For this purpose the MPS shall preferably collect the amount through digital payment mode. Only where the beneficiary does not have access to digital payments shall the MPS collect the payment in cash.
A Special Purpose Vehicle shall be formed to undertake all activities required to successfully offer the service of home delivery of atta to the beneficiaries.
The cabinet also decided that the state government shall bear the entire cost of grinding wheat into atta even though the guidelines framed under NFSA allowed the recovery of these grinding charges from the beneficiary. The new service is,
therefore, expected to result in a saving of about Rs 170 crore for the beneficiaries as regards their present expenditure on converting wheat into atta at the local atta chakki.
Sources said that this decision will put an additional burden of Rs 670 crore on the state exchequer. Till now, wheat was given to beneficiaries under the National Food Security Act scheme every three months and the expense was Rs 1,825 crore. The beneficiaries will now get 5 kilogram flour per month.
The cabinet also decided on the finer details for recruiting 26,454 people in government jobs. This decision was taken in the first meeting and all departments were asked to identify vacancies. It also approved giving only one pension to MLAs and the amnesty scheme for private transporters announced by CM Mann a few days back.