The State government has decided to double the rice entitlement of all rice-drawing ration cardholders in Tamil Nadu for the next three months, as a measure to alleviate the hardships caused by the COVID-19 lockdown. This is in tune with the government’s policy of universal public distribution system (UPDS).
As being done for ordinary allocation of rice, every cardholder will get the additional allocation of rice free of cost at 5 kg per person per month.
There are a total of about 2.01 crore rice-drawing cards, of which priority household (PHH) cards are 1.15 crore and non-priority household (NPHH) cards, around 86 lakh. The broad objective of the State government is to ensure that no card receives a lower amount of rice than what it would have normally received under the UPDS, according to an order issued by the Cooperation, Food and Civil Supplies Department on Monday.
The effect of the decision is that a ration card, having four persons as members of a household, will be entitled to receive 40 kg of rice free of cost every month up to the end of June. Ordinarily, the monthly entitlement is 20 kg for a card of four persons. The order states that PDS beneficiaries can draw the additional entitlement for the month of April in May and June, while obtaining their revised quota of rice. In other words, during the period of April-June, a ration card in the State will cumulatively get 120 kg of rice free.
The State government’s move is an improvement over the Central government’s scheme -- Prime Minister Garib Kalyan Ann Yojana (PMGKAY) -- wherein only two types of ration cardholders – Priority Household (PHH) and Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) -- are entitled to receive the additional allocation of 5 kg per person per month for the three months (April – June) over and above the norms as stipulated by the National Food Security Act (NFSA).
Another decision taken by the government is to increase the minimum entitlement during the three months for single-member ration cards to 7 kg per card per month from 5 kg per card per month, which is the norm under the NFSA. By providing an additional quantity of 5 kg per person in such cards in the light of the lockdown, the total entitlement will go up to 12 kg, which is even otherwise being given in Tamil Nadu for the single member ration cards.
The State government’s move to cover the NPHH cards involves an additional requirement of 66,271 tonnes of rice per month at the rate of ₹146 crore per month. Totally, it will cost ₹438 crore additionally to the exchequer for the three months. This also means that the State government, which had been pressing the Union government to give rice free of cost for the NPHH cards too, has agreed to take the Centre’s offer of providing rice at the rate of ₹22 per kg for these cards.
But, the government will spend only ₹84 crore more than the originally-budgeted amount. This is because it will be able to save ₹354 crore from the transaction of pulses procurement, as the State has been allocated 11,108 tonnes of tur dal by the Centre free under the PMGKAY (which is 33,324 tonnes for the three months) for the PHH and AAY cards.
A few days before the Centre came out with the PMGKAY in March, the State government announced that rice, one kg sugar and tur dal each, and one kg of edible oil would be given free of cost to all entitled ration card holders in April, apart from cash of ₹1,000 each to rice-drawing cards. It had also decided to extend this concession, except the cash support, for the month of May too.