Friday, Dec 02, 2022

Food security: How the states feed India

The cabinet is set to take up the Food Bill,but several states have their own food security schemes.

Trendsetters & tweakers

Act one

Chhattisgarh already has a food security law in place. It became last December the first state to pass a food security bill,which covers several sections not under existing schemes.

The Act makes food entitlement a right and depriving anyone of that an offence. If PDS grains,for instance,are being diverted,the officials involved will face penal provisions. The Act also seeks to empower women by counting the eldest woman of a household as its head in matters related to ration cards.

Subscriber Only Stories
UPSC Key- December 2, 2022: Why you should read ‘UN Security Council’ or ...Premium
Poet, playwright and linguist…how Savarkar impacted MarathiPremium
Wanted: New York City rat czar. Will offer salary as high as $170,000Premium
‘AAP a one-man party… cannot become BJP alternative,’ says Baijayan...Premium

The Act provides for various subsidies over and above those granted by the Centre. In this year’s budget,the government earmarked Rs 2,000 crore for implementing the Act. Some get rice at Rs 1 per kg,while the destitute and disaster-affected persons get it free. The law also includes protein security by providing chana at Rs 5 per kg and pulses at Rs 10 per kg.

It defines a new category,“particularly vulnerable social groups”,which includes households headed by terminally ill persons,widows or single women,physically challenged persons,all households headed by a person aged 60 or more with no assured means of subsistence or societal support,and a person freed from bonded labour.

Wider reach,lower quota

Bihar covers a larger poor population than the Centre recognises,which it manages by rejigging the central PDS quota and spending on extra foodgrains,and says it cannot afford a higher burden. The Centre recognises 65.23 lakh BPL families,Bihar insists it has 1.37 crore of them,and extends its PDS coverage to a total of 1.12 crore. From a fund of Rs 580 crore it has created,Bihar spends Rs 120 crore every year on grains distributed among the “unrecognised” BPL families. This affects the quota — the central allotment of 35 kg grains a month,meant for all BPL families,is restricted in Bihar to the 25 lakh very poor families (Antyodaya); the other BPL families get 25 kg (10 kg wheat and 15 kg rice at centrally subsidised rates). That leaves Bihar still short and it meets the shortfall by buying grains from the FCI. “We cannot afford populist measures such as giving rice at Rs 2 per kg,” says Food and Consumer Protection Minister Shyam Rajak. “The CM has made it clear that the state hasn’t the wherewithal to bear even part of the burden of the food security law.”

Gujarat too covers almost twice as many BPL families as the Centre recognises — 24.3 lakh against 13.1 lakh. The government diverts part of the APL supplies to BPL families.



Punjab in 2007 identified 9 lakh families with an annual income below Rs 30,000 as beneficiaries of the Parkash Singh Badal government’s own atta-dal scheme. Today the count is 15.4 lakh. Initially entitled to 35 kg wheat at Rs 4 a kg,and 4 kg dal at Rs 20 a kg,they now get 25 kg and 2.5 kg respectively. A base family is of five members; for smaller families,the entitlement is per member.

With a yardstick of Rs 20,000,the Centre had counted 4.68 lakh BPL families in 2002. Of these,1.77 lakh families overlap both lists. The others in the list of 15.4 lakh,the state says,earn between Rs 20,000 and Rs 30,000. Punjab’s subsidies for them are higher than the Centre’s for BPL families.

Punjab allocated Rs 350 crore to meet the annual liability,but it failed to reach the nodal agency,PUNSUP,which reportedly had to take loans and divert central supplies to keep the scheme afloat. The state owes Rs 1,593 crore to four agencies for wheat and dal. For a few months in 2009,the state switched to black gram from moong dal. Since December,it has failed to supply dal and says it will resume that in July after Rs 30 crore is sanctioned by the finance department.


The CAG last year hinted at tweaking of the PDS: “Director,Food and Civil Supplies & Consumer Affairs,Punjab,intimated to district controllers/Punjab State Civil Supplies Corporation Ltd (PUNSUP) to divert the wheat allocated by the Government of India for the Above Poverty Line families to atta-dal scheme.” The department insists wheat is picked up during the procurement season,and pulses through tenders.

Over & above

PDS supplies,lower rates

Madhya Pradesh this month launched a scheme,Mukhyamantri Annapurna Yojana,which it described as “a step ahead’’ of the central bill. MP is one of several state that add their own subsidies to make PDS food material available at rates cheaper than those fixed by the Centre. It sells wheat at Rs 1 a kg and rice at Rs 2 a kg to BPL and Antyoadaya families,who get respectively 35 kg and 20 kg foodgrains every month. Since April 2008,the state had already been subsidising foodgrains at an annual cost of Rs 440 crore; the new scheme increases the subsidy burden by Rs 420 crore. The target population is 3.5 crore,nearly half the state’s.

Rajasthan’s latest budget provides for wheat at Re 1 per kg for all BPL and Antyodaya families,costing the state Rs 500 crore a year. This is besides sugar at Rs 10. APL families get atta at Rs 5 and various other subsidies,costing the state Rs 350 crore. The budget exempts various spices from taxes,besides including a special package of Rs 200 crore for the economically backward.

West Bengal spends Rs 625 crore a year on subsidising PDS food,says Jyotipriya Mullick,minister for food and supplies. The government in 2000 started distributing rice at Rs 2 per kg to BPL families; Mamata Banerjee’s government added 40 lakh people. It also introduced 2 kg rice and 750 g wheat,both free,every week for each of the 1,391 members of the Toto tribe. “The food security bill will mean spending Rs 5,400 crore annually,which we cannot afford,” Mullick says.

Assam launched in 2010 a scheme that provides 20 kg rice at Rs 5.65 per kg every month to each of roughly 20 lakh families in the “lower strata of APL” category. This is in addition to 20 lakh BPL families who get 28 kg rice at the same rate. Another scheme allows village cooperatives to take bank loans at 12 per cent to lift PDS items,and 5 per cent of it is borne by the government.


Himachal Pradesh has a Rs-175-crore scheme that involves three kinds of pulses,mustard oil and iodised salt for all 16.32 lakh ration cardholders. “No family in the state has been left out,” says former chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal. Every family of two or more gets a kg each of moong,malka and urd dal at Rs 49.99,Rs 29.99 and Rs 34.99,besides 2 kg mustard oil at Rs 49.99 a kg and a kilo of iodised salt at Rs 4.

Food & beyond

Part of a larger whole

Orissa started in February a Rs 1-per-kg rice scheme under which 48 lakh BPL families get 25 kg every month.


It is the one food-related scheme among many launched by Naveen Patnaik,tentative about what the elections have in store now that his mentor Pyari Mohan Mohapatra is challenging him. Over the last one year,Naveen has announced nearly two dozen schemes ranging from free cycles,laptops,medicines and mobile phones to cash assistance for women’s self-help groups.

The rice scheme,an improvement on the Rs 2-a-kg scheme that landed the party a massive win in 2009 polls,will cost the exchequer Rs 1,312.50 crore a year. The CAG report this year had slammed the Rs 2-a-kg rice scheme over illegal diversion of 35 kg rice meant for fewer BPL families — the government distributed the rice among a higher number of beneficiaries,who ended up getting less than 35 kg a family.


Beyond food,Naveen has announced schemes for medical insurance and cheap loans for farmers (who also got a separate agriculture budget of Rs 7161.84 crore); 33 lakh free umbrellas for the disabled,widows,the destitute and the elderly (another scheme gives 37 lakh such people Rs 200 each); laptops for meritorious students ; scholarships for BPL girls; bicycles for BPL schoolchildren; and Rs 10 lakh for 4.8 lakh women in self-help groups. There are insurance and solar lanterns for weavers,artisans and silk farmers; torchlights,gumboots and umbrellas for tribal silk farmers; and pension for weavers and artisans aged over 60. For construction workers,there are cycles,chappals,gloves,helmets,life insurance and financial assistance of Rs 10,000 for their daughters’ weddings. For farmers and fishermen,there are free mobiles.

An internship for 5,000 youths comes with a monthly stipend of Rs 1,500; generic medicines are free at hospitals,which will cost the state an estimated Rs 240 crore. And concrete roads to all 50,000 villages in the next three years will cost Rs 623 crore.

The south,mostly about rice

Some free,the rest cheap

Tamil Nadu provides 20 kg rice free every month to each of its 1.85 crore PDS beneficiaries,a universal scheme it says is unmatched anywhere else. Tamil Nadu has long been running and improving on its own food security schemes,which Finance Minister O Panneerselvam had pledged to continue irrespective of the shape of the central food security bill. The food subsidy tab has gone up from Rs 4,000 crore in the interim budget of 2011,to Rs 4,500 last year,to Rs 4,900 crore in this year’s estimate.

Much of it is about rice. The DMK had come to power in 1967 largely on the slogan “one padi (a local measure) rice for Re 1”. Then in 2006,the DMK government re-subsidised PDS rice to Rs 2 a kilo for those below the poverty line and to Rs 3.50 for others. It slashed the BPL rate further to Re 1 in 2008,before Jayalalithaa’s government introduced the universal,free scheme.

Since 2007,each government in turn has also been subsidising tur dal,black gram,fortified wheat flour and fortified palm oil,besides packets containing 10 spices and condiments. The last scheme will continue till March 2014.

Going beyond rice are an idli for Re 1,curd rice for Rs 3,and sambar/lemon/curry leaves rice for Rs 5. The staple food of Tamils is served in good quality at Amma Canteens. A government initiative that was first undertaken through the Chennai Corporation,it was soon expanded across the state’s municipal corporations. In the plans ahead is an expanded menu including chapatis.

The state has a price stabilisation fund to procure and distribute essential commodities at cost price at times of crisis. This year,the fund was doubled from Rs 50 crore to Rs 100 crore.

Karnataka will distribute from July rice at Re 1 per kg and up to 30 kg per family with a BPL card. The scheme targets 98.17 lakh people and will cost the state Rs 460 crore a year. The new government had originally intended to roll it out in June but grain procurement was delayed. The state would require 2.40 lakh tonnes rice and is hoping the UPA government will provide 1.70 lakh tonnes of this; it will procure the rest. Ahead of the central bill,the UPA has reportedly expressed concerns at Karnataka’s demand.

Andhra Pradesh first introduced a Rs 2-per-kg rice scheme in 1985,after chief minister N T Rama Rao resolved no family in the state would ever go hungry. It was reintroduced by the late Y S Rajasekhara Reddy in 2008,covering a wider population. In 2011,Chief Minister N Kiran Kumar Reddy introduced good quality rice under PDS at Rs 1 per kg for BPL families. The scheme benefits 2.70 crore families. Antyodaya families get 35 kg per family,while other BPL families get four kg per person subject to maximum of 20 kg. The state spends Rs 2,600 crore as subsidy for rice at Rs 1. Some 3.24 lakh tonnes is provided. The government also subsidises red gram dal at Rs 50 per kg,palm oil at Rs 40 per litre,kerosene at Rs 15 per litre,sugar at Rs 13.50 per kg,and wheat at Rs 7 per kg.

Earlier this year,as a Telugu New Year’s gift,Chief Minister Reddy launched a “Amma Hastham” scheme,under which the government provides nine essential commodities — four more than were being provided earlier — in a packet through ration shops every month for Rs 185,against an actual cost of Rs 292. Similar to a Tamil Nadu package,it includes 1 kg toor dal,1 litre palm oil,1 kg whole meal atta,1 kg wheat,½ kg sugar,1 kg salt,¼ kg chilli powder,½ kg tamarind and 100 gm turmeric powder.

Kerala has a PDS coverage of 79 lakh,of whom 14 lakh are in the BPL bracket. The state requires 1.35 lakh tonnes grains a month and its annual food subsidy bill is Rs 750 crore. The allocation is 10 kg rice at Rs 8.90 and 3 kg wheat at Rs 6.70 for APL families,25 kg rice at Rs 1 and 8 kg wheat at Rs 2 for BPL families,and 35 kg rice at Rs 1 for Antyodaya families. Besides,an Annapoorna scheme for the destitute aged over 65 gives each such beneficiary 10 kg rice free. And families counted as BPL but without cards get 19 kg rice at Rs 6.20 and 7 kg rice at Rs 4.70. Kerala has 32 lakh BPL families as per a survey in 2009. Food Minister Anoop Jacob says the state would welcome the provision in the proposed central bill that every person is entitled to 5 kg foodgrains at subsidy. Allocation to BPL households is irrespective of the number of members,and the new provision would reduce the wastage,Jacob says.

First published on: 13-06-2013 at 02:04:46 am
Next Story

Sucha Singh’s son abandons dreams of moving to Canada

Latest Comment
Post Comment
Read Comments