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Tamil Nadu to implement National Food Security Act from November 1

New Delhi: Three years after its enactment, Tamil Nadu government on Thursday decided to implement the National Food Security Act from November 1, but said will “retain and continue” the existing Universal Public Distribution System, wherein rice is being supplied to all rice cardholders “without any discrimination”.

The move comes after the Centre conveyed to Tamil Nadu that monthly food grain allocation to Above Poverty Line (APL) beneficiaries would be at Minimum Support Price derived rate, as the “state has so far not implemented NFSA,” a Cooperation, Food and Consumer Protection Department order said. The order dated October 27 said the present MSP derived rate for rice was Rs 22.54 per kg even as the state had so far been getting 15.15 lakh tonnes annually from the Centre at Rs 8.30 per kg.

While its monthly off take of rice under PDS, including Antyodaya Anna Yojana was about 3.23 lakh tonnes, the Centre’s monthly allotment to the state was 2.96 lakh tonnes, it said. The additional requirement was being met through central allocation of 27,969 tonnes per month at Below Poverty Line Rate of Rs 5.65 per kg by Centre up to June. But there has been no additional allocation since July, it said.

The annual expenditure on this pattern is Rs 2393.30 crore for supply of 38.93 lakh tonnes of rice, it said, adding due to the Centre revising the rate in APL category, the state will have to incur an additional Rs 2730.95 crore annually over and above the aforesaid expenditure if NFSA was not implemented.

“Taking the above circumstances carefully into consideration, the government of Tamil Nadu has decided to implement the National Food Safety Act, 2013 in Tamil Nadu from November 1, 2016,” it said.

“With a view to protect the Universal PDS which the state has been adopting at present, in which rice is supplied to all rice cardholders without any discrimination, it has been decided to retain and continue the Universal PDS in Tamil Nadu while implementing NFSA,” it said.

Accordingly, all rice cardholders will be eligible for 5 kg rice per person (including a child) per month under NFSA while ensuring that the quantity given under the new system is not less than the present entitlement under Universal PDS, it said, adding, “there shall be no upper ceiling of 20 kg per card per month.”

For instance, if there was only one adult family member, entitlement will continue to be 12 kg per month,though monthly entitlement as per NFSA norms was only 5 kg (at subsidised rates), it said, adding, rice will be supplied free of cost to all rice card holders. Due to these steps, the state’s monthly rice offtake was expected to go up and the government “shall have to bear the additional cost” of about Rs 1193.30 crore per annum, it said.

A government release said the decisions were taken at a recent cabinet meeting, keeping the public welfare in mind.

“On the directions of Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa, NFSA has been ordered to be implemented in Tamil Nadu keeping in mind public welfare. Even if this results in additional expenditure, it will be implemented in a way benefiting all rice cardholders,” it said. The GO, meanwhile, said supply of foodgrains for priority and non-priority households under Universal PDS would be uniform.

Further, the government has decided to constitute a State Food Commission to monitor and review implementation of the Act, it said, adding, orders for appointing its chairperson and members would be issued separately. The revised scale of supply would be implemented in the state from November, except poll-bound Aravakurichi, Thanjavur and Thirupparakundram Assembly seats.

The G.O. recalled that rice has been provided free of cost under Universal PDS since June 2011 under the “directions of Chief Minister” Jayalalithaa, who had implemented a then poll-time promise in this regard. The present supply came with a monthly ceiling of 20 kg per card, and 35 kg for AAY families, it added. The NFSA, which aimed at providing food and nutritional security to targeted priority households, had determined a rural coverage of 62.55 per cent and urban coverage of 37.79 per cent in the state, it said.