Patna,(BiharTimes): As Food Security Bill is expected to be tabled in Parliament on Feb 18, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has asked the Centre to bear the entire cost of the scheme. He also called for an independent BPL commission to identify genuine beneficiaries.
In a letter to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh he said “National Food Security Bill is a central legislation, which has been proposed pursuant to the central government’s own planning and policy.
“Therefore, it is the Centre who should bear the entire cost of the proposed paradigm shift in addressing the problem of food security from the current welfare approach to a right-based approach,” the letter said.
“When the GoI (Government of India) bears the entire expenditure related to Targeted Public Distribution System, why then substantial financial burden of enlarged entitlements and its implementation is being thrust upon the state unilaterally in the proposed legislation?” the letter asked.
The chief minister sent a copy of the letter to Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram, Deputy Chairman of Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia and Union Food minister K V Thomas.
According to political analysts the Food Bill, which is considered as a pet project of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, can work as a ‘game changer’ for UPA in the 2014 general elections––very much like MNREGA and other factors in 2009. That is why some opposition chief ministers are not very much keen on its implementation.
It provides 75 per cent coverage of Public Distribution System in rural areas, is billed as the world’s greatest experiment in providing food security to the poor. It was sent to the select committee immediately after being introduced in Lok Sabha in 2010 winter session.
The Bihar chief minister, however, expressed happiness that the Standing Committee on Food and Consumer Affairs took cognisance of some major concerns raised by the state government.
He also said that since there is wide gaps in the number of beneficiaries of the subsidised foodgrains scheme in the state and elsewhere, an independent BPL commission should be set up to ensure identification authentication, updating and display of beneficiaries in a transparent manner.
His letter also suggested direct cash transfer to beneficiaries to reduce expenditure over TPDS reform, which is an important part of the Bill.
The Committee felt that state governments may be divided into categories A, B and C. Those states, which are performing well financially could be termed as ‘Category A’ states and may bear the entire cost as envisaged in the bill––both one time and recurring nature for implementation of the Food Bill.
Remaining states may be divided into category B and C for which the Centre may provide financial assistance to the extent of 50 per cent and 75 per cent respectively for one time capital expenditure to be incurred on creation of infrastructure, constitution of state Food Commission, creation of scientific storage up to block levels and setting up of vigilance committees at various levels.