A meeting of State Food Ministers has called upon the Centre to allow States to have their own lists of Below Poverty Line (BPL) category and desist from targeting the public distribution system (PDS).
A declaration adopted by the one-day meeting, hosted by the Government of Kerala here on Saturday, said the general vision of an ideal food security system in the country had to be one where everyone had a right to adequate amount of food.
The meeting termed ‘unscientific’ the present methodology of identifying BPL households at the national level and then thrusting that number on the States. Surveys conducted by each State, the declaration pointed out, had shown much higher number of poor households than the national figure.
Provisions for meeting exigencies such as natural calamities, economic recession and drought should also be included in the proposed food security system, it said.
Briefing reporters after the meeting, Kerala Food Minister C. Divakaran, Finance Minister T.M. Thomas Isaac, Andhra Pradesh Food Minister J. Krishna Rao and Jammu and Kashmir Food Minister Qamar Ali Akhoon said another meeting of State Food Ministers would be held in Jammu and Kashmir to take the discussions further.
They said the meeting was of the view that the Centre should take the responsibility of leading the policy efforts and that if domestic procurements of food grains were a constraint, the Centre should go in for foodgrain imports, the Ministers said. The meeting, they said, opposed the move to reduce the scale of issue of ration articles from 35 to 25 kg and wanted the price of rice so allotted decreased from Rs.3 to Rs.2 a kg. It also wanted permission for the States to subsidise the prices further, if necessary. A good food policy should be associated with increasing public investment in agriculture.
The meeting was of the view that the proposed Food Security Bill should make sure that the intervening role of the Central government in ensuring adequate procurement at affordable prices was not compromised.