Chief Minister Jayalalithaa on Tuesday expressed her “strong opposition” to the draft Food Security Bill, 2011 and urged the Centre to exempt Tamil Nadu from the purview of the Bill.
In her letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, she said the proposed Bill was replete with “confusion and inaccuracy.” The proposed classification of target groups into priority household (PHH) and general household (GHH) for delivery of food entitlements would surely invite sharp criticism and furious opposition from everybody concerned. The very basis of such classification was unscientific and unacceptable.
Similarly, no reason had been adduced for restricting the coverage under Targeted Public Distribution System (TDPS) to 75 per cent of the rural population and 50 per cent of the urban population under the proposed Central Bill. Like the BPL norms proposed by the Union Planning Commission, the categorisation of households and arbitrary restriction of coverage, as contained in the Central Bill, would lead to controversy and make a mockery of providing food security. “The most significant point is that the forced implementation of TPDS, as contemplated under the Central Bill, will entail an additional financial burden of about Rs.1,800 crore per annum with no statutory commitment forthcoming from the government of India,” she said, adding that the annual food subsidy for the State was Rs.5,000 crore.
Her letter was written in the context of the Centre seeking views of the State on the legislation. Also, there were reports that the Bill would be introduced in Parliament shortly as the Union Cabinet had cleared it.
Pointing out that her government had been iimplementing the Universal Public Distribution System (UPDS), she said the Government had been able to address the issue of food security for all without exception. “In addition, my government has ordered the supply of rice free of cost to all under the Universal Public Distribution System. This has been well received by the public.” Apart from rice, wheat and sugar, special PDS commodities such as toor dhall, urid dhall, fortified palmolein and fortified Atta were supplied to the public at heavily subsidised prices.
Another unique feature of the UPDS in the State was that no private individuals were permitted to run fair price shops. Only the Co-operative Societies and the Tamil Nadu Civil Supplies Corporation, apart from a few Women Self Help Groups, were permitted to run the fair price shops, numbering 32,977. She requested the Centre not only to continue supply foodgrains to the State at the existing price and along the existing pattern, but also restore the monthly allotment of kerosene.
Keywords: Food Security Bill