JAMMU: The State Administrative Council (SAC) on Monday partially addressed the new scheme of distribution of food-grains in response to the massive public outrage over the implementation of the National Food Security Act (NFSA). Describing the decision as path-breaking, an official spokesman said that the SAC ordered increase of the ration scale from 5 kilograms to 7, per soul in the Below Poverty Line (BPL) and Priority Sector House Holds (PHSS) category to provide relief to a vast majority of people across the state.
“This intervention is unique as the state will have to bear the burden of procuring the additional quantities of food-grains pursuant to the revision in the scale of ration which is beyond the NFSA level”, the spokesman said. The SAC took the decision in a meeting held under the Chairmanship of Governor NN Vohra.
The SAC decision has come in the wake of massive outrage over the previous Mufti Sayeed-led PDP-BJP government’s decision to hastily implement NFSA in the embattled State. The implementation was seen as appeasement of the then government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The political parties in Kashmir including pro-azaadi organisations came down heavily on the government following massive protests in valley, especially in capital Srinagar.
“The SAC accorded sanction to the provision of additional food-grains at 2 kilos per head, over and above the NFSA entitlement of 5 Kilos per head, for all 17.85 lakh individuals in the BPL (PHH) category upto a family size of six. The additional 2 kilos per head shall be priced at the highly subsidised rate of Rs 12 per kilo of rice and Rs 10 per kilo of wheat”, the spokesman said.
The Government Spokesperson observed that the BPL families in particular will receive major relief on account of the decision of the SAC as they will get additional quantity of 2 kilogram food-grains at a highly subsidised price as aforementioned. For a typical BPL of 5 members, the availability of ration now will be protected at 35 kilos (7 kilos multiplied by 5 members). Apart from full availability of 35 kilos of food-grains, the family which was earlier incurring a monthly expenditure of Rs 224 on the purchase of food-grains (Rs 6.40×35 kilos of rice) will now be spending only Rs 195 (Rs 3×5 kilos + Rs 12 x 2 kilos in a 5 member family) resulting in food bill savings to the family. Similarly, in respect of a typical 5 member non-BPL family in the Priority category, a family incurring monthly expenditure of Rs 350 earlier (35 kg x Rs 10) will now be spending only Rs 275 (25 kg at Rs 3 per kilo and 10 kilo at Rs 20 per kg).
It was also decided by the SAC that the additional provision of food-grains will be made available at 2 kilos per head, over and above the NFSA entitlement of 5 kilos per head, in respect of all the 42.51 lakh individuals belonging to the PHH category. This additional 2 kilo per head shall be priced on subsidised rates which will be Rs 20 per kilo rice and Rs 13 per kilo for wheat.
With a view to ensuring availability of ration even to those who are not part of the Priority category (i.e. NPHH), the SAC further approved availability of additional quantity of food-grains at 2 kg per head, over and above 5 kg per head in respect of 45 lakh individuals under the Non Priority Household (NPHH) category, a “no profit” basis (Rs.25 per kg for rice and Rs.18 per kg for wheat).
The Spokesperson also reiterated that Monday’s decision will fully protect the dispensation available to 13.77 lac souls in the AAY category who will continue to receive rations at the scale of `35 kg per family at the NFSA rate of Rs 2 per kg of wheat and Rs 3 per kg of rice. He added an AAY family will need to spend only Rs 105 per month to procure 35 kilos of food-grains under the NFSA dispensation.
With a view to implementing the above decisions from April 1, 2016, the SAC directed the Finance department to immediately provide additional resources to the extent of Rs 105 crore to Consumer Affairs & Public Distribution Department (CAPD) to implement the decision relating to enhanced scale of food-grains over and above the NFSA entitlements. Finance department shall also provide an annual “Trading Account” facility of Rs 630 crore for upfront procurement of additional food-grains for immediate and efficient implementation of these decisions, particularly ensuring the physical availability of the required quantity of food-grains.
Referring to the concerns expressed by the certain sections of the society as regards the scale of ration being made available under the NFSA, the spokesperson stated that the BPL families having strength up to six members in particular had reservations with regard to the availability and scale of ration since the entitlement under NFSA is pegged at 5 kilos per soul. Based on a critical assessment of the need and feasibility of possible intervention, the State Government decided to go beyond the NFSA framework, by way of supplementation of NFSA entitlements in the priority category (PHH), particularly in respect of BPL households, to address such concerns notwithstanding the obtaining resource position of the State. Further, with a view, to addressing concerns relating to the availability of food-grains for those who are not a part of PHH, the SAC directed that food-grains at the scale 7 kilos per soul should be made available to 45 lakh consumers in the NPHH category to ensure availability for need-based drawal of ration by persons under the NPHH category.
The Spokesperson also said that the SAC directed the CAPD to finalise all necessary arrangements to ensure that flour (atta) is distributed in place of wheat wherever required.
Recounting the salient features of NFSA, the Government spokesperson mentioned that the implementation of this Act has also covered a significant additional population of about 22 lakh souls who have been included in the rationee population for the first time in the state, thus increasing the total coverage from 99 lakh souls to 119 lakh souls.
The Spokesperson stated that the while total quantity of food-grains being made available to the State Government remains at 7.5 lac MTs under the NFSA regime, the SAC decided that the State Government shall take up the matter with the Central Government for augmenting the present allocation of 7.5 lac MTs particularly in view of the typical geo-climatic conditions obtaining in J&K, inaccessibility of large number of areas and low agricultural productivity. The Governor shall be personally addressing the Union Food Ministry in regard to this matter.
The Spokesperson described NFSA as a significant leap in providing the right to food to the ultimate beneficiary, particularly by way of creation of a dynamic database which is transparently visible on the national PDS portal and is open to speedy additions, deletions and corrections, at any time.
Under the NFSA regime, bifurcation of ration cards which was not possible since 2001 also stands permitted for the first time. As of today a total of 9 lakh new ration cards have been added to the system.
Recalling the decision of the State Cabinet of December 2015, the Spokesperson observed that NFSA was approved for implementation across the state by the erstwhile Government based on the memorandum of a Cabinet Sub-Committee (CSC) headed by the former Deputy Chief Minister and the then Finance Minister and the former Minister CA&PD as members of the CSC. The erstwhile Government had decided that the Act will be implemented with effect from Ist February 2016 and, further, to maximise the benefits to all sections of the society that the inclusion as well as the exclusion criteria for coverage under NFSA shall be in line with those specified in the Act.