The State government will not comply with the August 20 deadline set by the Centre to implement the Food Security Act in the State.
The Centre had given a firm assurance to Chief Minister Oommen Chandy that the implementation will not have any bearing on the public distribution system as feared.
The Chief Minister, on his part, had resolved to ensure that all infrastructure facilities were in place before taking the plunge, sources said.
Kerala and Tamil Nadu, with strong networks of public distribution system (PDS) covering almost the entire population, had voiced concern as the governments felt that large sections would be out of the network.
They also feared a massive cut in grain quota to the States.
As per the provisions of the Act, about 58 per cent of the families which are getting grains at subsidised rates will become ineligible for the benefit.
The steep decline in beneficiaries will automatically lead to a cut in the Central grain quota.
But the Centre had assured the Chief Minister that the existing PDS coverage and grain quota would be unaltered.
“The Centre had assured that 100 per cent PDS coverage will continue even after implementing the Act and there will be no cut in the existing grain quota. The above poverty line and below poverty line families which will become priority sectors under the new dispensation will thus be eligible for all benefits that they are enjoying now. The Centre has also agreed to sanction an additional eight lakh tonnes of rice and wheat to be distributed at Rs.8.90 per kg. This will be confirmed through an executive order,” Mr. Chandy told The Hindu.
Since ‘door delivery’ is one of the highlights of the new Act, it mandates providing storage space for three months’ stock, around 2.98 lakh tonnes. Warehouses will have to be constructed in all districts and taluks for smooth grain distribution. This would incur an expense of Rs.178 crore and the State government had decided to draw funds from the Rural Infrastructure Development Fund (RIDF) of Nabard to construct godowns.
Private warehouses too would be hired for the purpose.
The Centre had agreed to bear 50 per cent of the total cost of Rs.270 crore needed for ‘door delivery’ of grains to the beneficiaries, sources said.
The direct benefits transfer facility too would be introduced only after making adequate preparations, State government source said.