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Centre warns Kerala on Food Security Act implementation

Centre warns Kerala on Food Security Act implementation

New Delhi: The Centre on Friday warned of action if Kerala and Tamil Nadu failed to implement the National Food Security Act (NFSA) and said if there was no immediate improvement in the situation, foodgrains for distribution to above poverty line (APL) families in these states will be provided at a higher rate.

"Kerala and Tamil Nadu are two developed states. If the two states do not implement (the Act), we will take action. One option is to supply APL foodgrains at higher minimum support price," Union Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said at a two-day national conference on public distribution system reforms here.

"Kerala and Tamil Nadu should also implement the Act as early as possible. Despite being developed states, I don't understand why they are not doing it," Paswan said.

The Kerala government had earlier said it would implement the NFSA from November but has since deferred it to December.

Officials, however, said that irrespective of what these two states do for implementing the NFSA, there would be no change in subsidised rates of grain for below poverty line (BPL) families there.

The 34 states and union territories implementing the NFSA have been asked to address the gaps in the list of beneficiaries and ensure computerisation of PDS operations and Aadhar linkage with ration cards at the earliest.

The minister also urged the states to "expedite reforms so as to bring transparency in the functioning of PDS", a key feature of the NFSA.

He said that due to active coordination with states, the central government has been able to implement the NFSA in 34 states and union territories and that the scheme is helping 80 crore beneficiaries.

The NFSA, passed by Parliament in September 2013 during the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government's rule, aims to abolish the APL and BPL criteria and establish a uniform system of providing five kg wheat or rice to every beneficiary every month at subsidised rates of Rs 1-3 per kg.

Paswan appreciated the efforts made by the various states in achieving 100 per cent digitisation of ration cards and automating 1.5 lakh fair price shops across the country.

The minister said that due to Aadhaar seeding, 2.33 crore fraudulent or duplicate ration cards have been cancelled across 27 states and UTs to help save Rs 14,000 crore in food subsidies.

Addressing the conference, Minister of State of Consumer Affairs C.R. Chaudhary urged stakeholders to modernise procurement operations, construct scientific storage facilities, implement the NFSA and complete the end-to-end computerisation of targeted PDS operations.

In her address, Food Department Secretary Vrinda Sarup said that with the innovative use of technology, significant progress has been reported by states in the last two years.

She also identified the reduction of inclusion and exclusion errors and Aadhaar validation as the key focus areas during the period.

Paswan said that 64.86 per cent ration cards were seeded with Aadhaar at present compared with the May 2014 figure of only six per cent.

He said online allocation has started in 28 states and automation of supply chains completed in 18 states.

"The 100 per cent automation will be achieved in Chhattisgarh, Gujarat and Rajasthan in the near future," he said.

Andhra Pradesh, Daman and Diu, Madhya Pradesh and Tamil Nadu have achieved 100 per cent automation of fair price shops.

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