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On Punjab’s platter: Centre’s atta and Badals’ dal

Beneficiaries to overlap as Centre’s food Bill targets 46% families,atta-dal 48%

Written by Sukhdeep Kaur | Chandigarh | Updated: April 8, 2014 4:55:21 pm

Even as Bathinda MP Harsimrat Badal described the Food Security Bill passed by the Parliament as “politics over hunger” on Monday,her own government in Punjab is eying to woo nearly half of Punjab’s population by doubling the number of families under its populist atta-dal scheme.

When poll-bound Haryana announced that it will to add dal to UPA’s food Bill,it was counting the same gains as Punjab’s atta-dal scheme. According to estimates of Punjab food and civil supply department,the Centre’s food Bill will cover 46 per cent families of the state. This means 29 lakh families out of Punjab’s nearly 63 lakh families will qualify as priority households under the Food Security Act of the UPA.

Interestingly,a higher percentage of families — 48 per cent — will benefit from atta-dal scheme if the Badal government doubles the figure of beneficiaries to 30 lakh families.

This is not all. While the Centre’ s poor will get wheat at Rs 2 per kg,Badals’ poor will also get 2.5 kg dal per family at Rs 20 per kg. Simply put,while Centre’s scheme will woo 29 lakh families with wheat,Punjab’s atta-dal scheme will give the same families — if their poor match — and one lakh more both wheat and dal.

According to Centre’s figures,the average size of a household in Punjab is 4.7,which is taken as 4.5 for calculating the number of beneficiaries. Since the poorest-of-the poor covered under Antyodya Anna Yojana (AAY) will remain in the same category,state’s 1.79 lakh Antyodya families will continue to get subsidised foodgrains under AAY.

Based on National Sample Survey Office Consumption Expenditure Survey data for 2011-12,the Planning Commission has estimated that 54.79 per cent of Punjab’s rural and 44.83 per cent urban populations will be covered under food Bill.

Though Punjab seems to be dragging its feet on implementing the Centre’s scheme,it is a win-win situation for the state that is running the scheme on borrowings by its procurement agencies.

The expense of adding one lakh beneficiaries,as per estimates of the department,is

Rs 28 crore annually. For 15 lakh new families,it will entail an additional annual liability of Rs 420 crore. For 30 lakh families,the figure will double. But with the food Bill providing wheat for almost the 46 per cent families,Punjab will save on its wheat bill,which is two-third of the estimated annual liability of Rs 350 crore of the atta-dal scheme. The department has outstanding dues of Rs 1,616 crore towards Punsup,the state procurement agency that is running the scheme.

Owing to high costs of dals and non allocation of funds,the beneficiary families had not received any supply for nearly six months since last December. The supply was resumed in July after the finance sanctioned Rs 30 crore out of the Rs 300-crore budget for the scheme.

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