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Foodgrains at Rs 3 a kg: Talks begin on poll vow

June 11, 2009 15:01 IST

The Centre has begun consulting states on implementing its Rs 3 per kg rice/wheat scheme for the poor, but discussions got stuck on what would be the basis for defining the beneficiaries.

The meeting chaired by Union food secretary Alka Sirohi on Wednesday was aimed at giving shape to the Congress' poll promise of providing cheap rations to Below Poverty Line families.

President Pratibha Patil had mentioned the same in her address to the joint sitting of Parliament earlier this month.

"My government proposes to enact a new law -- the National Food Security Act. Every family below the poverty line in rural as well as urban areas will be entitled, by law, to 25 kg of rice or wheat per month at Rs 3 per kg."

But state food secretaries couldn't agree on what should be the basis for allocation of food grains or how to arrive at the number of beneficiaries.

Some of them wanted food grains to be allocated based on state's assessment of BPL families and not the model prescribed by the Planning Commission.

Under the Planning Commission model, the Centre allocates food grains to over 4 crore (40 million) BPL families, while the states have issued BPL card to over 8 crore (80 million) families.

Some states felt that the responsibility of implementing the scheme should not rest with them, as it is the Centre that would be deciding on the quantity and number of beneficiaries.

Punjab suggested that the consuming states should have adequate storage facilities. It demanded that PDS distribution should remain with them.

A highly placed source said the government is very serious about the law and added that Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar has already held several meetings on this issue with senior officials after taking charge for another term on May 25.

The proposed bill must contain provisions for periodical review of the BPL list as economic conditions of the people improve with the passage of time, the source said.

"Deciding on the quota for families above poverty line (APL) and if they are to be covered under the public distribution system (PDS) would also be considered," the source said, adding that the central issue price of food grains for the APL category is also important.

Deliberations are also on within the ministry and with other ministries about the bill, as a decision is also to be taken on whether the 2.5 crore (25 million) families covered under Antodaya Anna Yojana would be included in the BPL category under the proposed law, the source added.

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