States wary of direct cash transfer

Say they lack facilities to implement scheme

States have expressed apprehensions over the implementation of proposed direct cash transfer scheme meant to check leakages of subsidised foodgrains allocated under public distribution programme, citing many issues including inadequate bank branches.

The issue came up for discussion at a two-day conference of the State Food Ministers and secretaries organised by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution here, which concluded on Tuesday.

The Ministry, however, decided to test the proposal in six union territories—Chandigarh, Pudduchery, Andaman and Nicobar, Lakshadweep, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu—launching the programme on a pilot basis.

The pilot would be launched in the next two months to assess the efficacy of the proposed alternative model, before it is proposed to be implemented in other states, Food Minister K V Thomas said.

The proposed alternate model for the transfer of food subsidy was discussed in the meeting attended by food ministers from 18 states and senior officials from others.

“The states raised a few apprehensions. They had their own suggestions. Planning Commission provided clarifications for them and Some of the states agreed,” Thomas said when asked if states agreed to the direct cash transfer proposal.

The alternative model involves distribution of foodgrains at a rate closer to the market prices through PDS and transfer of food subsidy to the beneficiaries' bank accounts.

At the meeting, the states pointed out that there could be problem in opening of accounts of the beneficiaries of the direct cash transfer scheme as branches of banks were not available everywhere.

The Food Secretary intervened and said, “Right now, we are concentrating on six UTs after that we will think about other states.”

Addressing the states at the meeting, deputy chairman of Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia said that the present PDS system will continue. He assured them that the direct cash transfer scheme would not lead to dismantling of current system of procuring grains at minimum support price (MSP) and distribution through PDS.

At the meeting, the Food Ministry asked the states to be ready with basic infrastructure for implementation of the proposed food bill.

End to irregularities

There were complaints about siphoning of food grains from fair rice shops because the margin was low. “I have written to all the States’ chief Ministers  to make functioning of fair shops more effective and increasing margin among other things,” Thomas said.

After the meeting concluded, it was resolved that states and union territories will endeavour to implement doorstep delivery of food grains to the fair price food shop.

“Off-take of food grains for BPL category was quite satisfactory in all states except one or two, but it is not satisfactory in the case of the APL category. Cases of allocation to 250 poorest districts were also in a bad state. I have requested states to have the off-take as per the plan we prepared,” the Minister said.

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