The Centre has decided to delay the implementation of the Food Security Act by giving states three months extra for rolling out the major social sector plan passed by the previous UPA government. As many as 25 states and Union Territories are yet to roll out or even give indication of implementing the scheme anytime soon.
The decision to extend the date was taken at a high-level meeting convened by Prime Minister Narendra Modi Thursday.
“States should tell us clearly if they want to implement the Act and any other concerns they face regarding the Act. As of now, there is a lot of haziness on it,” said Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan. Paswan has called a meeting of all states on July 4 to understand the issues affecting the implementation.
“I will go to various states and meet the chief ministers. I do not want any centre-state confrontation on this. The poor should not be left in the lurch in the absence of a decision by states,” he said.
The outgo towards the ambitious scheme under the Act is Rs 1.31 lakh crore. The huge amount is supposed to be one of the reasons why the Centre has been dragging its feet in pushing the rollout.
The implementation of the law would increase the Centre’s food subsidy bill by Rs 25,000 crore, while the annual grain requirement would rise by 6-8 million tonnes from the current level of 55 million tonnes, he said. Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra, have fully implemented the Act; while Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Chandigarh, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar have rolled it out it partially.
“The Food Security Act came into force on July 5, 2013. As per the law, state governments were to implement the law within 365 days (by July 4, 2014). Twenty states and five Union Territories have not implemented the food law so far. So we have decided to extend the deadline by three months,” Paswan told reporters here.
The Centre would continue to provide foodgrain allocated to these states, he said, adding that there was no need to amend the law or issue ordinance to extend the deadline. An executive order will be issued.
In September 2013, Parliament passed the Food Security Act that gave legal entitlement to highly subsidised foodgrain to two-thirds of the country’s population. The ordinance was, however, issued in July 2013. Each eligible person would get 5 kg of of rice and wheat at Rs 3 and Rs 2 per kg respectively.