Chhattisgarh takes a big leap; passes food security law

It covers 90 percent population and expands PDS basket to include pulses, black gram and salt

prasanna

Prasanna Mohanty | December 22, 2012


The coverage will now go up from 88 percent to 90 percent of its population and include non-PDS food programmes too.
The coverage will now go up from 88 percent to 90 percent of its population and include non-PDS food programmes too.

While the union government dithers over its food security law and has, in the meanwhile, proposed to handover cash in place of food grains, Chhattisgarh has become the first state to legislate a historic food security law last Friday to provide near universal PDS to its people. The coverage will now go up from 88 percent to 90 percent of its population and include non-PDS food programmes too.

This law is evidently better in terms of its scope and the coverage of population in comparison to the one proposed by the union government. Some of the key elements of the law are:

•         Entitlements are both in terms of both PDS supply and non-PDS provisions for households, and not individuals. Non-PDS provision are: (a) Free cooked meals for pregnant women, lactating mothers, children up to 6 years, mid-day meals for children in 6-14 age-group, supllmentary nutrition for malnourished, destitute, homeless and disaster-affected families and (b) Food grains for all students in hostels and ashrams and the migrants at a pre-determined price;

•         Eldest women, not less than 18 years of age, will be treated as heads of the family and the ration cards will be issued in her name. When a younger girl attains 18 years, she will become head of the family for the purpose of issuing ration cards in other families;

•         PDS basket enlarged to include iodised salt, pulses and black grams;

•         Households have been classified into three categories with different entitlements – antyodaya, priority and general households. Antyodaya households (poorest of the poor) have been expanded to include “particularly vulnerable social group” – households headed by terminally ill, widow, single woman, physically handicapped person, freed bonded labour and particularly vulnerably tribal groups (as defined by the union govt);

•         90 percent of the population will be covered under the law – 31.18 lakh BPL households (55 percent of population), 11 lkah Antyodaya households (20 percent) and 8.44 lakh general households (15 percent). This coverage is higher than the existing one by 2 percent;

•         BPL families are redefined as “priority households” and are expanded to include landless, marginal and small farmers, unorganized sector labour and construction workers;

•         Entitlement for Antyodaya households: 35 kg good grains at Rs 1 a kg, 2 kg salt free, 2 kg black gram at Rs 5 a kg and 2 kg pulses at Rs 10 a kg;

•         Entitlement for priority households: 35 kg grains at Rs 2 a kg, 2 kg salt free, 2 kg black grams at Rs 5 a kg and 2 kg pulses at Rs 10 a kg;

•         Entitlement for general households (APL): 15 kg grains at Rs 9.5 a kg for rice and Rs 7.5 a kg for wheat;

•         Groups excluded from the benefits/entitlements: (a) those who pay income tax, (b) owning 4 hectare of irrigated land in non-scheduled areas or 8 hectare of non-irrigated land and (c) those owning pucca houses (with pucca roofs) of carpet area of 1,000 sq ft and liable to pay property tax;

•         Annapoorna Dal-bhat centres to provide free meals to destitute and homeless through the panchayats and

•         Private individuals and bodies to be kept out of fair price shops (FPS.), only panchayats, SHGs and cooperatives to run FPSs.
It may be pointed out that Chhattisgarh has done wonderfully well in fixing its PDS system and taking the food grains to every nook and corner of this tribal dominated state under the current chief minister Raman Singh. The system is fully computerized, involves local residents and civil society groups and fully transparent. The state takes tough action against any wrongdoings detected and reported by the people.

As for the proposed central law, which is pending for more than a year, is aimed at covering 62.5 percent of population (75 percent in rural and 50 percent in urban areas) but it is stuck primarily because the planning commission and the ministries of finance and agriculture are opposed to its financial implications.

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