It is for States to identify eligible beneficiaries: Union Secretary

The quantum of coverage of population in rural and urban areas under the National Food Security Ordinance can vary from State to State.

Indicating this, Sudhir Kumar, Union Secretary for Food and Public Distribution, told The Hindu over phone on Monday that the coverage under the Ordinance – 75 per cent of rural population and 50 per cent of urban population – had been stipulated keeping in mind conditions at the all-India level. But, as regards the function of evolving criteria for identification of beneficiaries and the task of identifying eligible beneficiaries in States, it was for each State government to carry it out.

He was answering a question whether the coverage stipulation under the Ordinance will not lead to the elimination of one-fourth of Tamil Nadu’s population from the ambit of the public distribution system as nearly 50 per cent of the State’s population is in urban areas.

According to Section 9 of the Ordinance, the Centre would determine the percentage coverage under the Targeted PDS in rural and urban areas of each State subject to the overall national stipulation, and the number of persons to be covered in urban and rural areas of the State concerned would be calculated on the basis of the published figures of the population estimates or, in other words, the 2011 Census.

To another query as to at what rate the Union government would supply rice meant for Above Poverty Line category, the Union Secretary replied that under the new scheme of things, “BPL and APL [under the context of public distribution system] will become meaningless.”

The Ordinance, as of now, committed to supplying foodgrain – at Rs. 2 a kg for wheat and Rs. 3 a kg for rice – to eligible beneficiaries. He expected that once the new system came into force, there would be greater demand for foodgrain from various States. Foodgrain could be given to States for sections of population not covered under the Ordinance only subject to availability. The rate at which they would be supplied would be decided later.

[As for Tamil Nadu, the Union government every month allots nearly 1.5 lakh tonnes of rice meant for Below Poverty Line at Rs. 5.65 a kg and around 1.26 lakh tonnes of rice for APL at Rs.8.3 a kg, apart from about 65,260 tonnes at Rs. 3 a kg for Antyodaya Anna Yojana beneficiaries].

On the question of involvement of local authorities in the light of the fact that most fair price shops (around 31,500) in Tamil Nadu were being run by cooperative societies, Mr. Kumar replied that the relevant provision [Section 25] of the Ordinance did not mean that panchayats and councillors would be entrusted automatically with the task of managing fair price shops. As per the law, the panchayats or other local bodies would be responsible for proper implementation of the law in their respective areas of jurisdiction.

More In: Tamil Nadu | National