Gujarat yet to implement Food Security Act

State has obtained four consecutive extensions; Minister says beneficiaries’ list is ready

February 01, 2016 11:32 pm | Updated September 02, 2016 10:58 am IST - AHMEDABAD:

It's more than two years since the Parliament passed the National Food Security Act (NFSA) which seeks to provide basic food requirements of poor in the country. However, the Gujarat government has stubbornly refused to implement the central act and instead obtained four consecutive extensions for delay in implementation from the centre.

According to the top officials in the government, the decision to delay implementation of the central act was "taken at the highest political level."

"It was political decision to delay implementation and seek extension after extension. No reasons for delay was shared with us," a top bureaucrat told The Hindu , adding, "Now, as per the latest extension, the state will implement it from next financial year April 2016."

Another bureaucrat requesting anonymity told The Hindu that, "perhaps, the government wanted to implement the act around the assembly election time next year."

However, Gujarat's Civil Supply Minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama told The Hindu that "implementation process is underway."

"We are under the process of implementation. We have prepared the list of beneficiaries and have been displaying the list in each of the 18000 villages across the state as per the provision of the central act," Mr Chudasama said, defending the government's move for delay.

"We will tell the Apex Court during the next hearing that the full fledged implementation will begin from April," he said, indicating that the program may be launched from April 14th, birth anniversary of Baba Saheb Ambedkar.

Recently, a public interest litigation (PIL) was filed in the High Court demanding compensation from the state for its failure in implementing that national law, which is likely to benefit almost 3.8 crore people in the state.

The petitioner KR Koshti, a lawyer in the High Court, contended that the targeted beneficiaries - 2.58 crore in rural areas and 1.24 crore of urban population - must be get paid allowance or compensation with immediate effect.

Despite high economic growth rate, Gujarat ranks poorly in human development index and malnutrition among women and children is substantially high in the state. As per the government's own figures, almost 50 % women and 45% children suffer from malnutrition in the state.

"The incidence of malnutrition in Gujarat is very high in both rural and urban areas. Why the state is not implementing the subsidized food program is really shocking," said a senior government official.

Top Congress leader Ahmed Patel had written a letter to the Chief Minister Anandiben Patel in July 2015 demanding that the law enacted by the parliament be implemented in the state immediately.

"Over the past many years, the state government has invested substantial amount of resources in highlighting the administrative efficiency of Gujarat Model and hence it is surprising that the state has repeatedly missed the deadline," Mr Ahmed Patel stated in his letter to the Chief Minister.

According to Mr Patel, 77 lakh families of the state are the beneficiaries of the NFSA and they should not be deprived of subsidized food programme by delaying its implementation.

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