Food Bill to cost Tamil Nadu Rs 3000 crore per year

Last Updated: Mon, Aug 05, 2013 03:07 hrs

Chennai: The Tamil Nadu government has said the consequence of the proposed Food Security Ordinance will not only lead to a decline of about 100,000 tonnes of foodgrains, but also cost the state exchequer an additional Rs 3,000 crore per annum.

Chief minister J Jayalalithaa said the monthly allocation of foodgrains for it will decline by nearly 100,000 tonne from the present level of 296,000 tonne due to the Centre's move. Preserving the universal public distribution system (PDS) in the state will then cost the state extra funds each year.

"A grave concern is the uncertainty of availability, which would expose the state to higher vulnerability of physical shortage, especially during scarcity periods," she said.

This will be compounded by the fact that schedule-I of the Ordinance assures even the limited allocation of subsidised foodgrains only for a period of three years from the commencement of the Ordinance.  There is no clear-cut indication on how the Union government will maintain the level of subsidy on the supply of foodgrains to the states thereafter. This will only increase the uncertainty in ensuring food security over the long-run.

Tamil Nadu has been successfully implementing a universal PDS for the last several decades. Through this system, it has been able to address the issue of food security for all without exception.  Historically, the system has been built on a combination of procurement of rice within the state and a reliance on assured allocations from the 'central pool' of food grains. 

"To preserve this hard earned food security, it is essential to ensure that the present level of allocation of food grains from the 'central pool' is retained without any diminution. Therefore, we had repeatedly requested that a provison be inserted in the relevant clause of the Food Security Bill to protect the existing level of allocation of food grains for Tamil Nadu," she stated.

She noted, section 3(2) of the Ordinance envisages that nationwide 75 per cent of the rural population and 50 per cent of the urban population are to be covered as households eligible for allocation of subsidised food grains.  This is a totally arbitrary allocation principle with no rational basis.

"I just cannot comprehend how a lower level of allocation in urban areas can be justified," she said, adding there is no food production in urban areas to supplement household consumption. 

In such a situation, the urban coverage should be 100 per cent or at least 75 per cent on a par with rural areas. Tamil Nadu with an urban population of 49 per cent has the highest level of urbanisation among major states in the country and is going to be particularly hard hit by this ill-conceived and invidious discrimination against urban areas in the Ordinance.

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