NDA-ruled Centre tells Uttarakhand to computerise Public Distribution System first; Congress-ruled state cries foul
The Central government has told Uttarakhand government that allocation of food grains to it under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) will be considered only on successful completion of computerisation of the state's public distribution system (PDS) and satisfactory arrangements for delivery of food grains at the doorsteps of beneficiaries.
The letter dated August 4, a copy of which is with Down to Earth, has been signed by Nilambuj Sharan, director with the department of food and public distribution. It tells the state government that based on existing PDS, it would only get food grains allocated under “targeted” PDS given by the Centre to people below poverty line, whom the state identifies. Once the arrangements are completed and checked, only then state government will be considered for its quota under NFSA, the letter states.
The move has not only upset the state government, but also put it in a fix as it had started implementing NFSA on July 1 this year.
'Act does not put such condition'
Talking to Down to Earth, Uttarakhand food commissioner, Ravinath Raman, said the Act nowhere mandates computerisation of PDS. Chapter 5 of the Act does talk about computerisation, but nowhere is it mentioned that it would be a condition for the allocation or denial of the foodgrain, he said.
Uttarakhand has enrolled 6.5 million ration card holders under NFSA, which would mean the state needs 530,000 tonnes of foodgrain to be given to the people. The consumer would get wheat at Rs 2/kg and rice at Rs 3/kg.
Raman said that based on the criteria in NFSA, around 1.2 million more beneficiaries were added to the 5.3 million who were already enrolled under TPDS. “We are in a very difficult position. We gave these beneficiaries foodgrains for a month and now we have to deny them the benefit because of the Centre’s new criterion.” He added that computerisation of PDS is already under way and digitisation of the records is going on. The state would take another six months to complete the whole process.
During the tenure of the previous Congress-led UPA government, the Uttarakhand government had told the Centre about its position and the Centre had given the state extra time to complete the process. But the new government seems to be in no mood to relent.
NFSA director Sharan in his letter had observed that Uttarakhand government was ready with the software application but that it was yet to finalize agency for system integration and computers had not been purchased or installed. The Centre had also sought details on how the state government was planning to deliver foodgrains at people's doorsteps. He said, “it may be clarified whether it is being implemented throughout the state and the name of agency implementing it at the state and district level. If more than one agency is involved at the state/district levels, the details and the mechanism for coordination among them may also be indicated.”
NFSA was introduced by the UPA government and is meant to provide beneficiaries rice, wheat and coarse grains at Rs 3, Rs 2 and Rs 1, respectively. The law provides 35 kg of foodgrains to a family. (For details read: A bill to secure food for poor).
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