Poll debacle makes Cong push food security scheme

Poll debacle makes Cong push food security scheme

Poll debacle makes Cong push food security scheme

After the recent drubbing in Assembly elections, the Congress-led UPA central government is working at hard selling its flagship food security scheme by making it more attractive to reluctant states and  thereby reaping dividends in the upcoming 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

The Centre, which was earlier hesitant to concede the demands of state governments to foot the food security bill, has now decided to bear 50 per cent of handling charges of foodgrain under the scheme.

According to the cabinet note from the Union Ministry of Food and Consumer Affairs, the Centre will pay half the handling charges while the states will have to meet the rest. The handling charges include the cost of transportation of foodgrains from Food Corporation of India godowns to ration depots and loading and unloading charges.

Besides, the Ministry is also planning to increase the commission paid to ration shops. As per the Ministry’s estimate, the running cost of a ration shop is around Rs 10,000 a month, which will be revised to attract more co-operative societies and self-help groups to come forward to run the shops, a senior official from the Ministry told Deccan Herald.

The Ministry’s moves to market the scheme follows several states refusing to implement it unless the Centre undertook to share the handling charges. With the Lok Sabha polls approaching fast, the UPA government is desperate to make the scheme its poll plank.

Despite the UPA government aggressively pushing the scheme, only eight states —Haryana, Rajasthan, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Karnataka, Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh and Sikkim —have informed the Ministry of Food about their preparedness to implement the act while Punjab and Chandigarh have indicated their willingness. The remaining states are yet to respond.
The National Food Security Act, 2013 provides legal right to every eligible household to foodgrains at subsidised prices. The bill guarantees five kg rice, wheat and coarse cereals a month per person of such households at Rs 3, 2, 1 respectively.

The Act, which received President’s assent on September 12, gives one year’s time to the states to implement the scheme.

Though Rajasthan and Delhi have announced the launch of the scheme, in both the states the ruling Congress dispensation performed poorly in the elections.
A postmortem of the poll results revealed that Congress leaders themselves admitted that delayed launching of the food scheme failed to enthuse the voters.