If the suggestions of Parliament’s standing committee on food are incorporated in the final version of the ambitious Food Security Bill, then beneficiaries of the Public Distribution System (PDS) will for the first time have a right to reject inferior quality foodgrains.
The committee, which presented its report to Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar yesterday, has said the central government should prescribe a minimum quality norm for grain to be distributed under the proposed law.
The committee also recommended that the State Food Commissions proposed to be set up be vested with powers to check the quality of grains before taking delivery from the central government.
More, the committee said, end-consumers should get the right of refusal to accept delivery of grain are below the prescribed norms.
At present, the central government distributes around 35 kg of foodgrain each month to over 60 million Below Poverty Line (BPL) families and 10-15 kg of grains to more than 110 million Above Poverty Line (APL) families.
The standing committee in its report has said that under the proposed Bill, grain should be supplied at a uniform five kg per person per month, irrespective of any BPL or APL distinction at a flat rate of Rs 3 per kg for rice, Rs 2 for wheat and Rs 1 per kg for coarse cereals.
Committee chairman Vilas Muttemwar said many representatives of political parties and others have complained about the quality of grain supplied through the PDS and had expressed fear that this might also be done under the new law.
“The presence of foreign particles in foodgrains supplied through the PDS is less in big grain producing states like Punjab, Haryana and Andhra Pradesh, but was more in the main consuming states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu and north-eastern states. Hence, it was felt that the Centre should incorporate a minimum quality standard,” Muttemwar said.
He said for end-consumers, too, the committee was of the view that they should have the right to reject the grain if the quality is not up to the mark and then report this to State and District Grievance Redressal Forums.
The committee also advised that as the Bill presented in Parliament by the food ministry does not exactly address the problem of nutritional deficiency, the government should ensure doorstep delivery of fortified atta, pulses, sugar, millets and other nutrigrains to PDS outlets.
Among the other suggestions, Muttemwar said members felt the proposed grievance redressal mechanism to be set up as part of the Bill should be up to the block/village panchayat level instead of the cu rent provision of just a district-level redressal mechanism, and such a mechanism should be adequately represented by women.
The panel of Parliamentarians also suggested that states be categorised into three categories, based on their financial condition to share the one-time expenditure required in operationalising the Bill.