Centre deputes K.V. Thomas for urgent consultations with them
A majority of States in the northeast have conveyed to the Central government that it is not “practical” for them to roll out the United Progressive Alliance’s “game-changer” food security law for lack of resources, manpower and infrastructure.
Alarmed at the admitted ill-preparedness of these States to implement the food law, the Centre has deputed Union Food Minister K.V. Thomas to hold urgent consultations with them. The Minister is flying down to Guwahati on Monday with a high-level team of officials and has convened a two-day meeting with the Food Ministers of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim.
No door delivery
Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur and Mizoram have candidly told the Central government that it is not possible for them to make door delivery at fair price shops as they do not have the resources or manpower. Nagaland has said that it is not practical for it to do door delivery due to the “topography” of the State. Tripura plans to introduce mobile vans. Only Sikkim said it had opened 25 godowns to store foodgrains for the public distribution system. Under the new system, States have to create intermediary points for storing four months’ of foodgrain stocks.
All the seven States and Sikkim have demanded more foodgrains allocation as they have “negligible” local production of cereals. The government is bound by the Act to provide subsidised wheat or rice or coarse cereals to 75 per cent rural and 50 per cent urban population. Only identified beneficiaries are eligible to receive 5 kg of rice or wheat or coarse cereal at Rs. 3, Rs. 2 and Re 1 per kg every month.
Based on their offtake in the last three years, but for Manipur, the northeastern States will tend to lose their allocation under the Act. But the Centre has given an assurance in Parliament that it will not cut the allocation of any State for three years.
Implementation left to States
The Food Ministry has pointed out that under the new law, implementation of the programme is with the State governments through local self-government bodies, which must be strengthened. The States have to evolve a proper criterion and mechanism to identify the beneficiaries. They have to set up grievance redress bodies and vigilance committees at district and State levels.
It is incumbent upon States to computerise the PDS with digitisation of database and computerisation of the supply chain for implementation of the Act. So far only Delhi, Haryana and Uttarakhand have indicated their readiness to implement the law. Poll-bound Delhi has said it will do it in phases.