In order to roll out the National Food Security Act 2013 and computerisation of Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), the Ministry of Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution organised a conference of food secretaries of States and Union Territories in New Delhi Today.
In his inaugural address, Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, Ram Vilas Paswan emphasised on the need for early implementation of the Act by all States and UTs in proper manner.
Addressing the conference, the Minister said, “Public Distribution System is an important scheme to link the Central and State Governments directly to the vulnerable people. In the erstwhile TPDS, three categories – Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY), below-poverty-line (BPL) and above-poverty-line (APL) – were being provided subsidised foodgrains.”
In 2013, NFSA was enacted to provide food security to 67 percent of the population in the form of highly subsidised foodgrains at Rs. 2 and 3 per Kg for wheat and rice respectively. The coverage under NFSA has been delinked from poverty estimates.
During the initial one year provided in the Act for identification of beneficiaries, only 11 States and UTs started implementation of the Act. Keeping in view, the problems faced by some States and UTs in completing the identification process and other preparatory activities, the Government extended the time period upto 30 September, 2015.
Some of the States, in their eagerness to implement the Act missed the spirit of the Act to ensure that the foodgrains reach the intended beneficiary with 100 percent transparency. It is to be kept in view that right from lifting of foodgrains from Food Corporation of India (FCI) depots, the State Governments are responsible to make sure that the foodgrains reach the fair price shops without any leakage and are distributed to the beneficiaries in time. “To ensure all this, they are required to correctly identify the beneficiaries, digitise the beneficiary database and place the same on PDS portal and also to have a robust grievance redressal mechanism,” the Minister said.
“The Government is providing both technical and financial support to enable the State Governments to computerise TPDS operations. Further, Central Government is also providing assistance in meeting expenditure on intra-State transport and handling of foodgrains and fair price shop dealers’ margin,” Paswan added.
Though 11 more States and UTs have started implementation of the Act in last 6 months, 14 States and UTs are yet to roll out NFSA. The States must keep in view that it is in the interest of the common people that the Act is implemented without any further delay because not only the people get foodgrains at cheaper rates but also more number of people are covered. Such of the State Governments which are further subsidising foodgrains will save on the State subsidy as the issue prices under NFSA are already very low, the Minister informed.
There is a need for automation of fair price shops to ensure leakage free distribution of foodgrains to intended beneficiaries. For this, it is essential for the States to properly identify the beneficiaries, digitise the list with Aadhaar seeding.
During the conference, the status of preparedness for implementation of NFSA in each of the remaining 14 States and UTs was reviewed in detail by the Minister. Except Tamil Nadu, all the other States and UTs are likely to start implementation of the Act by April, 2016. Tamil Nadu has not indicated any firm date for implementation of the Act but has indicated that computerisation of TPDS is likely to be completed by June, 2016 after which implementation of the Act will be taken up.
The conference was attended by the representatives of 33 States and UTs. Secretaries (Food & Public Distribution), CMD, FCI, other senior officers of the department participated in the discussion along with officers from National Informatics Centre (NIC), Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and Registrar General of India (RGI).