| Chief minister Nitish Kumar checks the model of a storage godown at Samvad on Friday. Picture by Deepak Kumar |
The Nitish Kumar government would implement the Food Security Act from February 1.
The scheme proposes to provide 5kg foodgrain — rice at Rs 3 per kg, wheat at Rs 2 per kg and cereals at Rs 1 per kg — per person every month. It will cover 85 per cent of the rural population and 74 per cent of the urban.
The chief minister announced it while inaugurating 382 warehouses of Primary Agriculture Co-operative Society (PACS) and 85 biomass gasified rice mills in Patna on Friday. The beneficiaries of the food security scheme have been identified through a social economic survey done by the state government.
Nitish said around 2,900 warehouses for storing foodgrain would be constructed at a cost of Rs 1,372 crore. Once the Food Security Act is implemented, the state would require 56 lakh metric tonnes of foodgrain for which it desperately needs to increase its storage capacity from its existing 9 lakh metric tonne. Once the warehouses are constructed, the storage capacity of the state will rise to more than 18 lakh metric tonnes.
The chief minister also announced a “decentralised distribution” of foodgrain, which would benefit the farmers, who complain about belated payment by Food Corporation of India and the state food corporation.
“From now on, foodgrain would go directly from these PACS warehouses to the public distribution system shops,” he said.
The biomass gasified rice mills will help in paddy milling because at present Bihar has to rely heavily on Uttar Pradesh because of limited number of rice mills in Bihar.
Nitish added that the increased number of warehouses and rice mills would give impetus to his ambitious agriculture road map. He stated that connecting all villages, having a population of 250, with roads was also a part of the road map.
He expressed confidence that he would be able to establish a dedicated feeder line for agriculture. The chief minister instructed officials to complete the construction work within a year at all cost.
Faced with a strong challenge from the BJP and the RJD, Nitish will harp on his “performance” ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. With improved power supply, the JD(U) feels that the implementation of the Food Security Act can prove to be a game-changer.
“Nitish was among the first non-Congress chief ministers to support the Food Security Bill despite the fact that the JD(U) was then a part of the NDA. Now, if he implements the scheme, it will favourably impact his core voters (the EBCs and the Mahadalits). The BJP has been eyeing these sections and is making a concerted effort to woo them away from Nitish,” said a JD(U) MP.
However, one of the major hurdles in the implementation of the act is rampant corruption in the public distribution system in Bihar. There are widespread complaints by MLAs cutting across party lines about foodgrain meant for the BPL population being black-marketed.