Nitish writes to Centre on Food Security Bill
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
"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 yesterday.
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 foodgrains and said
the cap was bound to be arbitrary, divisive and theoretically
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
foodgrain 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, 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 volatality
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.