| Chief minister Nitish Kumar addresses a news meet after his weekly janata durbar on Monday. Picture by Deepak Kumar |
Patna, Sept. 9: Chief minister Nitish Kumar has set in motion the process to implement the Food Security Act in the state, realising it would immensely benefit the Extremely Backward Classes (EBCs) and Mahadalits — his support base constituting over 55 per cent of Bihar’s electorate.
“We are working in expeditious manner to implement it. The principal secretaries, and rural development and urban development departments have been assigned to formulate the criteria for its implementation,” Nitish today told reporters after his weekly janata durbar at 1 Aney Marg.
Nitish virtually unveiled the roadmap of implementing the food act in the state. “We will use the primary data that will come out from the census that is underway in the state in the implementation of the food bill. I have reviewed the ongoing census process in the state thrice at my level,” Nitish said.
This is the first time a census is being conducted on caste lines since 1932. The chief minister did not mention if Socio Economic Caste Census, 2011 would help him among other political parties and leaders to identify their “core” voters and work on to consolidate them in the run-up to the elections.
Nitish pointed out that a comprehensive list of beneficiaries would be worked out and put on the public domain. “A list of non-beneficiaries would also be posted on the public domain to invite objections. We are working to ensure total transparency in the implementation of the food security bill in the state,” he said.
Nitish said it might take four to six months to fully implement the act. “Once it is implemented, the beneficiaries would get the legal rights to get the stipulated foodgrain,” Nitish said, adding that his government was committed to implement it.
Social activists and observers described Nitish’s alacrity with the food security act as the part of his efforts to consolidate his hold among the numerically preponderant but impoverished EBCs and Mahadalits, who constitute almost 90 per cent of the below poverty line (BPL) families in the state.
What, according to political observers, provided the real cutting edge to Nitish in 2010 Assembly elections, was carving out the EBCs and Mahadalits from the Mandal block and convert them into his core support base by showering on them political and economic empowerments. He reserved 16 per cent of seats for the EBCs in the local bodies and gave three decimals of free land to the Mahadalits for their homes among other pecuniary benefits.
After the break-up with the BJP, Nitish is apparently trying to go all out to use the Food Security Act — a flagship scheme being dubbed as the game changer for the UPA-II — to the advantage of the JD(U) in the state in the run-up to the 2014 elections.
While expressing his commitment to implement the food security act, Nitish virtually endorsed the remarks of national party chief Sharad Yadav yesterday at Srinagar that the third front might emerge stronger after the 2014 polls against the impression being created that either the BJP or the Congress would lead the government.
Asked if his party would forge an alliance with the Congress, Nitish said: “We will not be able to think on possible alliances before October. Our party is right now busy with district-level meetings.” He appeared to suggest that a possible alliance with the Congress hinged on according special category status to the state.
“They (Centre) are aware of the benefit they are about to reap after according the special category status to the state. The expert committee has done its work. It is for the Centre to take a decision on the expert committee’s (Raghuram Rajan panel) report if it has got it,” he said.
State rural development minister Nitish Mishra has written a fresh letter to his central counterpart Jairam Ramesh, requesting him to release funds for payment to Electronic Corporation of India Limited (ECIL), engaged in census operation. He had written such letter earlier also.