“Allocation for urban population should be made on a par with rural population”

Reiterating its reservations over the National Food Security Bill, Tamil Nadu on Wednesday said it is for raising the coverage of urban population under the Bill from 50 per cent to 75 per cent.

At a conference of State Food Ministers in New Delhi on Wednesday, Tamil Nadu Minister for Food R. Kamaraj, who began his speech referring to how the State was successfully implementing Universal Public Distribution System (UPDS), said the categorisation of households and arbitrary restriction of coverage as contained in the Bill would make a “mockery of providing food security to the urban poor.” He suggested that the allocation for the urban population be made on a par with that of rural population.

Pointing out that “poverty is a dynamic and relative concept which makes accurate estimation impossible in the absence of an acceptable criteria and methodology,” the Minister said that due to unforeseen natural calamities including drought and floods, a large number of vulnerable Above Poverty Line families might become victims of abject poverty. “Therefore, the flexibility of coverage over and above 75 per cent in rural areas and 50 per cent in urban areas has to be clearly spelt-out.” Quoting the recommendation of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the possibility of errors in identification of beneficiaries under the proposed law, Mr Kamaraj wanted the Centre to address the issue and insisted that the allocation of food grains be adjusted dynamically on the basis of increasing population on yearly basis.

Opposing the Standing Committee’s recommendation of categorising States on the basis of financial health for the purposes of absorbing the cost of expenditure under the Bill, the Minister said: “Our view is that irrespective of the status, the Centre should share 50 per cent of the distribution cost.” He said the present allotment of 2.96 lakh tonnes per month would come down to 2.24 lakh tonnes under the new dispensation.

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