The demanded additional quantity may be 1.24 lakh tonnes a month

Chief Minister Jayalalithaa has urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to provide the additional quantity of rice at Rs. 3 per kg or Rs. 8.30 per kg.

[Under the Bill, rice will be provided to States at Rs. 3 per kg to cover eligible households. At present, Rs. 8.3 per kg is the issue price of rice fixed by the Central government for Above Poverty Line (APL) families. The additional quantity, which pertains to over and above the State’s entitlement, is likely to be around 1.24 lakh tonnes a month. The State’s monthly entitlement will be about 1.82 lakh tonnes].

Ms Jayalalithaa came up with this demand as she, in her letter written on Saturday to Dr Singh [the details of which were made public on Sunday], pointed out that the fixation of the issue price of foodgrains had even now been left to the discretion of the Union government, though the present allocation and off-take of foodgrains to States under the Public Distribution System (PDS) had been protected through an amendment to the Bill.

In the event of the issue price being fixed at the economic cost of price, the Sate would have to incur an “additional huge financial burden of around Rs.1,000 crore,” she said.

Recalling her previous letter sent to him on the subject, Ms Jayalailthaa stated that the Centre, which had accepted some of her suggestions, had proposed a few amendments.

She reiterated that the coverage of urban population under the Bill should be increased to 100 per cent or at least 75 per cent on a par with the population of rural areas.

She also suggested that the schedule in the Bill, now stating that the allocation of subsidised foodgrains would be in force for three years, be amended to provide the guaranteed subsidy for 10 years.

A provision to obligate the Central government to import food in times of scarcity was very crucial to make the legislation truly “a Food Security Act”.

Referring to the extension of the period for prescription of guidelines and identification of eligible households from 180 days to 365 days, she expressed doubt whether it was a realistic time frame given the fact that the identification of eligible households by States was contingent on the completion of the National Population Register and Socio Economic Caste Census (SECC). “This issue also may need to be revisited.” On the introduction of cash transfer and food coupon schemes, the Chief Minister said the provision should be amended that no such scheme may be introduced without the concurrence of the State governments.

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