The government will provide 15 kg of wheat and rice per month to an estimated 1 crore students in all hostels with at least two-third of students from Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes — a scheme that could cost the exchequer up to Rs 4,000 crore annually. The move comes at a time when different political parties are trying to reach out to dalits and other backward classes ahead of assembly election in some states, and the general election which is due next year.
Announcing this decision, Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan on Monday said the government will provide grains at BPL rate which is Rs 4.15 per kg for wheat and Rs 5.65 per kg for rice. In the Ambedkar hostels where all students belong to SC/ST, each student will get 15 kg of wheat or rice per month at BPL rates, he said. “In all other hostels, be it government or private, where two-third students are from SC, ST, OBC and OBC among minorities, 15 kg of wheat or rice will be provided per student per month at BPL rates,” Paswan told reporters at New Delhi. He said that in such hostels, even students belonging to general category would get subsidised grains. All-girls hostels would also be entitled for subsidised foodgrains.
Terming it as an historic decision, the minister said that it is estimated that 1 crore students would benefit from this scheme. “The Centre will bear the entire cost of the scheme,” he said, but did not disclose the subsidy burden on the central exchequer. However, sources said the subsidy burden could be around Rs 4,000 crore. Paswan asked States to soon provide the list of beneficiaries so that scheme could be rolled out.
Under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), the Centre provides highly subsidised foodgrains to over 80 crore people of the country. Each person gets 5 kg of foodgrains per month at Rs 1-3 per kg, costing the exchequer about Rs 1.5 lakh crore annually.