Updated: April 19, 2020 2:27:38 pm
Coronavirus (Covid-19): While poor and migrant labourers across the country are struggling to make ends meet during the Covid-19-induced nationwide lockdown, several states have failed to identify about 40 lakh beneficiaries in the last seven years under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013, which was enacted to provide subsidised food grains to poor and vulnerable sections of society.
Besides, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Delhi are yet to lift their additional quota allocated to them by the Centre under the ‘Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana’ to provide foodgrains—5kg/person—free of cost to the existing NFSA beneficiaries over their current entitlement for the next three months, as a relief to fight the virus outbreak.
The latest data available with the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution (MoCAF&PD) shows that as on April 15, 2020, all States and Union Territories had identified 80.95 crore beneficiaries as against the 81.35 crore accepted number of persons under NFSA, leaving a huge gap of 39.79 lakh in beneficiary identification.
The gap in beneficiary identification means that a large number of persons will remain out of the ambit of NFSA benefits. They will not be able to avail the benefits of buying subsidised foodgrains— rice Rs 3/kg; wheat Rs 2/kg; and coarse grains Rs 1/kg— under NFSA.
The biggest gap in beneficiary identification is in Bihar, where a number of 14.40 lakh beneficiaries are yet to be identified, shows an internal note of MoCAF&PD.
According to the Ministry, as on mid-April, Bihar has identified 8.57 crore number of NFSA beneficiaries— 1.16 crore under Antyodaya Anna Yojana category and 7.40 crore under ‘Priority’ category— against its quota of 8.71 crore accepted number of persons under NFSA, leaving a gap of 14.04 lakh in beneficiary identification.
The state is followed by Himachal Pradesh, where the gap in beneficiary identification is more than 8 lakh. Tamil Nadu (7.36 lakh), Odisha (2.61 lakh) and Chandigarh (2.17 lakh) too have a sizeable gap in terms of beneficiary identification.
However, there are 15 states/UTs where the gap in beneficiary identification is nil. These include Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Meghalaya, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Lakshadweep, and Ladakh.
Under the NFSA, it was proposed to cover 67 per cent population— 75 per cent rural and 50 per cent urban— of the country, based on the Census-2011. Accordingly, state-wise coverage of the beneficiaries was also fixed by the Centre, which was based on the criteria fixed by the erstwhile Planning Commission. Based on this exercise, 85 per cent of rural and 74.53 per cent of urban population of Bihar was brought under the coverage of NFSA.
Notwithstanding the sluggish progress in NFSA beneficiaries identification, some of the States do not seem to in a hurry to lift their additional foodgrains quota allocated under the ‘Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana’ announced on March 26, 2020 as part of Rs 1.70 Lakh Crore “relief package” for the poor.
After this announcement, MoCAF&PD allocated an additional quantity of 10.76 lakh metric tons (LMT) of wheat and 110.67 LMT rice under Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana for all the existing beneficiaries under NFSA for the next three months. Out of this, 3.39 LMT wheat and 24.66 LMT rice have been lifted by different states till April 16. However, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and Delhi are yet to lift their additional quota.
The Union Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Minister Ram Vilas Paswan spoke to Delhi’s Food and Civil Supplies Minister Imran Hussain over phone and asked him to lift the additional allocation of foodgrains under the PMGKY. Sources said that during the telephonic conversation with Paswan, Hussain has promised to lift the allocation from Friday onwards.
An additional quantity of 36,367 metric tons of rice have been allocated for Delhi. Whereas, 3 LMT of rice for West Bengal and 1.34 LMT rice for Andhra Pradesh have been allocated additionally.
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