NAC for roll-out of universal PDS in 200 poor districts

NAC for roll-out of universal PDS in 200 poor districts New Delhi: The National Advisory Council, headed by Sonia Gandhi, today recommended distribution of subsidised foodgrains to everyone in at least 200 most disadvantaged districts across the country by April next year.

The NAC, after a day-long meeting, also suggested gradual expansion of universal public distribution system to other blocks but with a caveat of differential pricing.

It suggested people living in the poorest of the poor districts or blocks, which include Naxal-affected regions, should get 35 kg of foodgrains -- rice, wheat, millets and pulses -- at a subsidised rate of Rs three per kg.

A view in the Council was that these measures could be implemented from next financial year by making policy changes without waiting for the passage of the Food Security Bill in Parliament.

The NAC also agreed to recommend to the government extension of PDS to at least 33 per cent of the population living in urban areas, particularly slum dwellers, and the homeless.

At its next meeting on August 30, the NAC will deliberate on the nitty-gritties of the recommendations, including the financial burden on the exchequer and ways to meet it.

It also decided to suggest to the government to implement a scheme to ensure complete nutritional support to vulnerable segments of the population, including pregnant and lactating mothers, street dwellers, homeless, aged and infirm, and those suffering from diseases like HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.

A long standing demand of right to food activists for setting up community kitchens could also be a reality with the NAC backing it completely.

There was a feeling in the NAC that community kitchens could be rolled out in 64 cities which would provide nutritious food twice a day at affordable prices for the vulnerable section of the population.