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Food law gets 3 more months

New Delhi, June 26: The Centre has given states and Union territories three more months to roll out the food security law so that they can identify the beneficiaries of the scheme, the previous government’s flagship project to keep hunger at bay.

“The food security law came into force on July 5, 2013. As per the law, state governments were to implement the law within 365 days (by July 4, 2014). Twenty states and five Union territories have not implemented the food law so far. So we have decided to extend the deadline by three months,” food minister Ram Vilas Paswan told reporters.

The decision was taken at a high-level meeting called by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Only five states — Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra — have implemented the Food Security Act, which was passed by the UPA government and entitles two-thirds of the country’s population to 5kg of rice and wheat every month at Rs 3 and Rs 2 a kilo.

Six others, including Delhi, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Bihar, are on the verge of implementing the act and have done so partially, the minister, who is also in charge of consumer affairs and public distribution, said.

The rest are completely unprepared. Sources said problems in identifying the beneficiaries had led to the delay in these states.

According to the scheme, the Centre sets a cap on the number of beneficiaries, based on poverty figures for each state. Each state has to identify the households eligible for the subsidised grain, to be delivered through the existing public distribution system.

Households covered under the Antyodaya Anna Yojana, or the poorest of the poor, will continue to receive 35kg of food grain every month.

Paswan said the Centre would continue to provide food grain allocated to the states, adding that there was no need to amend the food law or issue an ordinance to extend the deadline. An executive order will be issued.

The minister, who described the law as an important legislation for the poor, said he has written to the chief ministers of the 25 states and Union territories to implement the scheme. “We do not want any confrontation between the Centre and states on the Food Security Act,” he said, while asking the states if they wanted any changes.

He said the implementation of the law would increase the Centre’s food subsidy bill by Rs 25,000 crore to Rs 1.31 lakh crore while the requirement for grains would rise by 6-8 million tonnes from the current 55 million tonnes a year.

Inflation worry

Modi held a meeting with cabinet colleagues to review the progress of the monsoon and steps taken to contain inflation amid growing worries over its weak start that could push up food prices sharply.

Asking state governments to set up fast-track courts to try hoarders and black-marketers, the Prime Minister stressed on the need for a coordinated effort to launch an advance action plan in case the rains fail this year.

The country received 45 per cent less rainfall in the first spell till June 17.

Modi said farmers should get adequate water, power and seed supply so that production is not affected because of scant rainfall.