State dept fears malpractices in food security programme

Aug 30, 2013, 05:07 IST | Ravikiran Deshmukh

Though the Congress party and its allies may think that the implementation of the ambitious food security programme is the trump card to win the upcoming general elections, the state food, civil supplies and consumer protection department sees it differently.

Its officials fear that the programme would get mired in malpractices due to highly subsidised prices of food grains. A senior cabinet member, who saw the presentation, said the department requested an additional staff of 2,345 employees for the implementation of the programme and Rs 85 crore annually for paying salaries and allowances. In addition, Rs 14 crore would be needed for resurrecting 11,835 ration shops, out of the existing 50,645 shops, to make them economically viable and that state might require equal number of additional shops after December 1.

Another contentious issue the state would have to deal with is the selection of rightful beneficiaries. While the number of beneficiaries from rural areas would go up by 45 lakh, the number in urban areas was set to see a drop of 1.5 crore, mentioned officials in the presentation. Sources said ministers, after watching the presentation, argued that they might lose the elections.

While the department estimated that about 56.57 lakh people from Mumbai and Thane might get axed from the existing list of beneficiaries, it did offer solutions to lessen the damage. It proposed that the list of beneficiaries be finalised only after verifying how many ration card holders consumed their quota of food grains from shops in the last 12 months. It also suggested that beneficiaries from urban areas should exclude -- income tax payers, those claiming pension of over a lakh per year, employees of the state and central government and those who stay in their own flats or on rent.

For beneficiaries from rural areas, the department suggested exclusion of those owning tractors and costly harvesting equipment, owners of three and four-wheelers and farmers with one hectare of irrigated land. It also suggested making the list of the beneficiaries public before the scheme was launched on December 1.  

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