CHENNAI: The State government is committed to continuing the Universal Public Distribution System even after implementation of National Food Security Act, 2013 (NFSA), Pradeep Yadav, Principal Secretary, Co-operation, Food and Consumer Protection Department told Express. He added that the State had to implement the Act, only after the Centre agreed to supply rice at a subsidised cost of `3 for people Below Poverty Line (BPL) and at a “tie-over” agreement of `8.30 for people Above Poverty line (APL).
That is, Tamil Nadu would have lost the Centre’s subsidy toward purchasing essential commodities and would’ve had to bear `2,730 crore more annually if it had failed to implement National Food Security Act (NFSA). Implementing it does not translate to narrowing the scheme to Targeted PDS as Section 32 of the Act permits any State Government to enhance entitlements or extend coverage under the scheme at their expenses.
The State government recently issued a notification with regulations for implementation of the Act, creating a widespread panic that Tamil Nadu may scrap the Universal PDS and adopt Targeted PDS instead. Several political oppositions condemned the regulations fearing that it may lead to ‘hunger deaths’ and exclusion of the needy. The anxiety remained among public despite Food Minister, R Kamaraj clarifying that the Universal PDS will continue.
Failing the implementation of NFSA, States had to purchase rice at an exorbitant rate of `22.54 for the above poverty line (APL). The State succumbed to this ultimatum and adopted the NFSA on November 01, 2016. The Centre is now said to protect the average demand of last three years in Tamil Nadu. Out of 36 lakh metric tonnes average demand for rice 24 lakh metric tonnes will be supplied to people below poverty line and the remaining 12 lakh metric tonnes will be purchased at the tie-over price and the State will meet any additional demand.
Why were priority households (PHH) identified then? The Act requires all States to earmark PHH based on their financial stability. The Civil Supplies Corporation of the State began door-to-door verification of ration cards and linked the Aadhaar numbers of beneficiaries.
“A single member cardholder would continue to get 12 kg even though NFSA prescribes only 5 kg per unit. The ceiling of 20 kg per card has also been waived. A family with 10 members in ration card would be eligible for 50 kg of rice per month,” a statement from Kamaraj said.
How are PHH identified?
PHHs will comprise all BPL families, those benefitted under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), families headed by women or differently-abled persons and households of agricultural labourers.