The government is likely to extend time given to states for a complete rollout of the food security law as majority of the states, including Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Gujarat, are yet to prepare beneficiary lists and have the logistical arrangements to implement the scheme.
Last month, the government had given three months — till the start of October — to implement the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013, which envisages providing highly subsidised foodgrains to two-thirds of the country’s population.
Official sources told FE that majority of states were yet to digitise the data regarding the beneficiary lists, foodgrain godowns and fair price shops. The complete rollout would take several more months.
Eleven states and union territories – Punjab, Haryan, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Delhi and Chandigarh have so far implemented the Act — some of them fully and others partially.
However, many of the larger states, including Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, with a substantial poor population, have yet to take the plunge. Even the Gujarat government, which expressed reservations about the food security law, has sought a one-year extension for implementing the legislation.
Tamil Nadu, which provides free rice to the poorest sections by reinforcing the Centre’s Antyodaya Anna Yojana with additional state support, feels the NFSA is redundant in its case.
“We want whole supply chain management of foodgrain under NFSA to be digitized and many states have been rather slow in their work,” a food ministry official said.
He said that the Centre couldn’t force states to implement the food security law in a stipulated time.
Besides sources said the NDA government had been focusing on reducing the pilferage of foodgrain under the present Targetted Public Distribution System (TPDS) to be reduced before the rollout of the food security law.
Food ministry officials acknowledge that about 30% of foodgrain meant under TPDS are either siphoned off or does not reach the intended beneficiaries because of lack of transparency in identifying Below Poverty Line (BPL) families.
Ashok Gulati, chair professor (agriculture) at the Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations, said, “As regards NFSA, the problem is that most of the states have yet to identify the beneficiaries based on the social census.
Also, the PDS leakages run at around 40%. So there should not be any hurry to implement NFSA. We need to fix the system before