They are free to use appropriate institutions for distribution of food grains
The Union government is inclined to examine specific requirements of States individually while implementing the proposed legislation on food security.
When it was brought to his attention that crores of people in the State would be left out of the Public Distribution System as the ceiling for coverage of urban population stipulated in the draft National Food Security Bill was 50 per cent and the provisional figures of Census 2011 pointed to the presence of nearly one half of the population of Tamil Nadu in urban areas, Union Minister of State (independent charge) for Food, Public Distribution and Consumer Affairs, K.V. Thomas, told The Hindu over phone on Wednesday that the formulation of broad parameters were made keeping in mind the all-India picture. Individual cases could be considered separately.
[Going by the proposed rules of exclusion as mentioned in the draft Bill, an estimate reveals that about 66 lakh rice-drawing card holders in the State, numbering 2.64 crore people, may become ineligible to receive subsidised rice from the Central pool. The ceiling of coverage of rural population is 75 per cent].
As for the suitability of the requirement of involving local bodies in the proper implementation of the proposed law in their respective areas given the fact that most of PDS shops in the State (around 31,000 out of around 33,000) were being run by cooperative societies, the Minister replied that as States would be entrusted with the responsibility of distribution of food grains, they would have the option of using appropriate institutions.
Asked why the Centre could not adopt Universal PDS for the implementation of the legislation, Mr. Thomas cited resource constraints as the major factor.
They were not just limited to finances but also to the aspect of management.
For instance, he said the country did not have adequate storage mechanism if it had to adopt the Universal PDS.
Only about 30 per cent of the country's production could be procured for PDS.
On wide variations in food grains entitlements for members of priority households (PHH) and general households (GHH), the Minister said that if the gap were to be bridged, procurement would have to be stepped up. But, if the production of food grains went up, the standards for entitlements would be hiked.
[According to the draft Bill, seven kg of food grains per person per month would be given for PHH and three kg per person per month for GHH.]