Half the states to implement food law by December: Thomas

Fourteen of India’s 28 states would be ready to implement the National Food Security Act by year-end, Food Minister K.V. Thomas said on Tuesday.

Fourteen of India’s 28 states would be ready to implement the National Food Security Act by year-end, Food Minister K.V. Thomas said on Tuesday.

“The sense that I got is that around half the states would be ready to implement the law by December,” Thomas told reporters after a two-day meeting of state food ministers discussed the implementation of the law.

The bill, a pet welfare legislation of United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi, was a part of the Congress election manifesto of 2009, and is widely expected to be a game-changer for the ruling party as it prepares for the 2014 general elections.

Congress-ruled states like Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Mizoram and Delhi have already started implementing the act.

Out of 28 states, food ministers of 22 states came to attend the meeting.

Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar opened the meeting, which was also attended by top officials from the prime minister’s office, finance and agriculture ministries and the Planning Commission.

The act aims to provide rations at cheap rates to around 67 percent of India’s 1.2 billion people, and will cover around 800 million people of the country.

Under the scheme, beneficiaries will receive five kg of food grain per person per month, including rice at Rs.3 per kg, wheat at Rs.2 per kg and coarse grains at Re.1 per kg.

After many states expressed their reservations on their respective quotas and the cost of transporting the grains, the central government agreed to look into the issues.

“Union food secretary will head a panel of state food secretaries to look into all their issues. I will also discuss the matter with the prime minister,” said Thomas.

“The centre can share the cost but details have to be worked out,” he said.

On around 18 states getting lower grains under the new law, Thomas assured that their allocations would be protected.

Among the other issues discussed in the meeting were transparency in making of rations cards, identification of beneficiaries, setting up of grievance redressal system, plugging loopholes in the distribution system and building of godowns to store the grains.

There would be a separate meeting for the north eastern states, said Thomas.

Besides the beneficiaries to be identified by the states, the act has special focus on offering nutritional support to women and children.

Pregnant women and lactating mothers will be entitled to maternity benefit of Rs.6,000 (Rs.1,000 per month for six months), while children in the age group of six months to 14 years will be entitled to meals of high nutritional value under the Integrated Child Development Scheme and the Midday Meal schemes.

The act provides that the eldest woman of the household, of age 18 years or above, will be the head of the household for the purpose of issuing ration cards.

The act has significant provisions for transparency and accountability. PDS-related records will be placed in the public domain, social audit will be taken up and vigilance committees will be set up under the law.

Provision for food security allowance to the entitled beneficiaries has been made in case of non-supply of food grain or meals.

Penalty on public servant or authority will be imposed by the state Food Commission, in case of failure to comply with the relief recommended by the district grievance redressal officer.


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