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Nitish writes to Centre on Food Security Bill

Last Updated: Sunday, September 25, 2011 - 20:56

Patna: Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has urged the Centre to incorporate provisions like setting up an independent commission for ascertaining the number of beneficiaries and cash transfer to them in the proposed Food Security Bill.
"The identification and listing of the beneficiaries under the proposed national food security bill is a complex activity that is best undertaken under the leadership and supervision of a competent and independent commission," he said in a letter to the Union Minister of State for Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution K V Thomas on Saturday.
Kumar urged the Centre to create the independent commission along the lines of the Election Commission so as to isolate it from the pulls and pressures of the administration and build its credibility among the people.
"The identification of the beneficiaries under the proposed bill will be a continuous process for addition/deletion requiring adequate resources and defined procedures for appeal and only an independent commission can ensure this," he said.
He took a dig at the Centre for capping the number of BPL people in Bihar for distribution of food grains and said the cap was bound to be arbitrary, divisive and theoretically incorrect.
He also criticised the Planning Commission's poverty numbers and said the number of poor people could not be expected to correspond to that which emerges from identification exercise by using deprivation indices along with exclusion and inclusion criteria.

Kumar suggested that the head count of the intended beneficiaries of the proposed food security should be made on an individual basis and not on the number of households as poor families are larger and would be at a disadvantage if food grain allocation were made per household.
He also urged the Centre to consider a system of cash transfer to the beneficiaries under TPDS for advantages like lower leakages, minimum implementation cost, and greater flexibility for households to choose their consumption basket and portability for migrant population.
"There should be provision of in-built safeguards in the system against certain genuine concerns about the cash transfers like inadequate protection against price volatility or use of the money on 'temptation goods' and other consumer needs," he said in the letter made public today.
Kumar also suggested unambiguous definition of starvation under chapter I of the proposed National Food Security Bill so that there was no scope for varying interpretation, claims and counter-claims.

Expressing apprehensions about the feasibility of the bill, he said the proposed legislation while arrogating to itself all powers to decide the number, criteria and schemes, imposed substantial financial burden on the states - particularly on those facing major incidence of poverty and acute financial crunch simultaneously.
It would be impractical to thrust upon the states legal obligations like food security without estimating additional financial burden on them or without making adequate financial provisions to meet the gaps in infrastructure, personnel and capacity to implement the proposal.
"The high goals envisioned would not then turn into real outcomes and the legal framework would create further complications leading to blame game and disillusionment with the system," Kumar observed.


First Published: Sunday, September 25, 2011 - 20:56
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