The state would demand around Rs 20,000 crore central funds for implementing the provisions of food security for poor.
The President today has given his consent to the ordinance, which was approved by the Centre on Wednesday.
Sharing the government’s concern, state food and consumer protection minister Shyam Rajak said: “We would have to take care of around 137 lakh below poverty line (BPL) families once the ordinance comes into effect. Bihar does not have funds of Rs 20,000 crore to meet this burden. We would ask for central funds for the same.”
He added that the exact figure would be calculated once the ordinance details are made available to the state. The minister’s stand is more or less similar to what Bihar had stated towards the end of 2011 when the Centre had sought opinions of state governments on the food security bill draft.
As things stand now, Bihar is spending around Rs 550 crore annually for food security for those BPL families who do not figure in the list of poor prepared by the Centre. While the Centre holds that Bihar has just 65 lakh BPL families, the state government has been maintaining that it is home to 137 lakh families.
The gap in this figure has forced the state government to spend from its own exchequer to provide benefits of the scheme under which foodgrain is provided to the BPL families at cheap price. Under this scheme, 25kg of foodgrain is provided to the BPL families every month. While rice is provided at a rate of a little above Rs 6 per kg, in case of wheat the subsidised price is a little above Rs 5 per kg.
“Once the food security bill comes into effect, each person from the target group would have to be given 5kg of foodgrain every month and that too at a cheaper rate — rice Rs 3 per kg and wheat Rs 2 per kg. Moreover, expenses incurred on storage and transportation too would have to be factored in. That is why we would press for our old demand that the Centre should bear the cost,” Rajak said.
Bihar would also ask for providing 7kg of foodgrain per person per month instead of present 5kg as the state feels that 5kg would be too little to meet one month’s food requirement of one person. The state would also press for making the commission, which would be set up at state level to look into complaints related to implementation of the food security bill, has seven members instead of the proposed five and ensure representation from extremely backward classes and minority communities in this body.
The state government’s stand notwithstanding, opposition BJP is apprehensive whether Bihar would be able to press for its demands forcefully given the fact that Congress, which has its government in the Centre, is extending support to it. “Political compulsions may force the present dispensation not to press for its demand forcefully and getting them accepted by the Centre. If it happens it would be unfortunate for the state as any agreement on this front would lead to heavy financial burden on the state,” the leader of Opposition in the Legislative Council, Sushil Kumar Modi, said.
Amid its demands, the state government is also appreciative of the Centre for agreeing to some of the points, which it had raised while sharing its opinion about the draft of food security bill in 2011.
At present, Bihar has a storage capacity of 2.62 lakh tonnes that is likely to go up to about 10 lakh tonnes by the end of current fiscal. Once the food security act be put in place, Bihar would need a storage capacity of 13 lakh tonnes.
Another point on which the state government is appreciative of the Centre pertains to giving rights to the states to identify the poor people. “Though we stand for setting up of an independent commission for identifying BPL families, yet till this is not done it is always good to rely on the state’s data,” Rajak said.