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Kerala to get rice free for now: Paswan

Union Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan. File

Union Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan. File   | Photo Credit: AKHILESH KUMAR

Decision whether to charge as per MSP rates will be taken later, says Minister

The Centre is still considering whether flood-hit Kerala will have to pay ₹26/kg for the rice supplied as part of relief efforts, according to Union Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan.

Mr. Paswan told The Hindu that the food is being provided free for now and any decision on payment will be taken later.

His Ministry’s directive, on the other hand, instructs the Food Corporation of India to provide the grains free but makes it clear that the bill — at a rate derived from the minimum support price (MSP) for paddy — will come due later. The amount will be adjusted against what the State is receiving from the National Disaster Relief Fund (NDRF) or under the Food Security Act, says the August 21 order.

“There are reports that the relief will be charged as per the MSP rates. But let me clarify that we have not asked the State government for any money right now. We will mull over it once the situation comes under control. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said already that Kerala has never faced such a situation,” Mr. Paswan said.

According to the August 21 order by the Department of Food and Public Distribution (DFPD), “It has been decided to make additional allocation of 89,540 metric tonnes of rice at MSP derived rate to Kerala for flood relief.”

As the MSP for paddy this year is ₹17,500 per tonne, and the common variety yields about 67 kg of rice for every 100 kg of paddy, the MSP derived price of rice is ₹26,110 per tonne or about ₹26 per kg.

In a footnote marking a copy to the Chairman of the Food Corporation of India, the DFPD order cites a Home Ministry memo dated August 20 regarding the National Crisis Management Committee’s August 19 meeting where the issue of supplying rice to Kerala was discussed.

“It was agreed that since rice is required for immediate relief to people residing in the relief camps, DFPD may provide the required quantities to Kerala without insisting on payment,” says the note.

‘Adjusted later’

“Subsequently, this may be adjusted from their eligible entitlement of Kerala from NDRF or other schemes including Food Security Act, etc.”

The order is in line with government policy from the last months of the previous UPA government. In 2013, food grains had been supplied to flood-hit Uttarakhand at economic cost, a higher rate than MSP.

In January 2014, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs retrospectively reduced the price that Uttarakhand was charged to MSP rates.

It also decided that henceforth, MSP-derived prices would be the rate for allocation of food grains to States for natural calamities and festivals, while States would be charged at economic cost for all other purposes.

Accordingly, food relief for the August 2016 Bihar floods and the March-April 2017 Manipur floods were supplied at MSP-derived prices.

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Printable version | Jul 5, 2020 1:02:23 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala-to-get-rice-free-for-now-paswan/article24794579.ece

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