Union Food and Consumer Affairs Ministry is ready with draft Bill

Citing the diversion of foodgrains meant for public distribution, Bihar and Delhi have urged the Centre to provide cash instead of foodgrains for beneficiaries under the proposed National Food Security Act.

“We have written to the Union Government to provide cash to ration card holders instead of foodgrains under the proposed National Food Security Act,” State Food and Civil Supplies Minister Shyam Rajak said.

Besides, Bihar, Delhi Government has also sought cash under the Act, according to sources in the Union Food and Consumer Affairs Ministry in New Delhi.

Mr. Rajak claimed even Andhra Pradesh is in favour of the cash under the proposed scheme.

The Union Food and Consumer Affairs Ministry is ready with the draft Bill that will be soon placed before an Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) on food. It aims to provide legal right over highly subsidised foodgrains to 68 per cent of the country's population.

Under the new law, the Ministry plans to provide 7 kg of foodgrains per person per month falling under ‘priority household' category and 3 kg to a member of ‘general household' category.

Bihar's reply came in the wake of the Centre recently seeking opinion of the States on NFSA, the Minister added.

The Bihar Minister said that due to space crunch in the FCI godowns in the State, the arrival of foodgrains for public distribution gets delayed by 2-3 months. This has resulted in diversion of foodgrains, he remarked.

Mr. Rajak said the State proposed to provide the cash in the name of woman of the household for its honest usage.

Fears are being allayed that the cash transfer would be wastage of money as men might purchase liquor or use it for some other purpose, he said.

The Minister said it has been suggested to open a bank account in the name of woman of beneficiary family and transfer cash in that account for the purpose.

Mr. Rajak said another issue which the Bihar Government has been repeatedly taking up with the Centre is updating the number of beneficiaries under public distribution system.

The Centre is providing foodgrains only for 65 lakh people of the State under different categories of BPL, APL and Antodya Anna Yojna whereas the State's figure of beneficiaries is around 1.5 crore, Mr. Rajak said.

The State arrived at this figure on the basis of past reports of Tendulkar Committee and Saxena Committee and a survey conducted by a Patna based non-governmental body ADRI (Asian Development Research Institute), Mr. Rajak added.

Due to this discrepancy in the figure, the State Government provided 25 kg foodgrains to around 85 lakh left out beneficiaries, the Minister said.- PTI