Ram Vilas Paswan, Union minister for food distribution and consumer affairs, on Friday expressed his distress over the slow rate of implementation of the National Food Security Act (NFSA) in Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
Paswan said the food and consumer affairs ministry has send an ultimatum to the states asking them to implement the NFS Act at the earliest. The food minister was addressing a national conference of all states on reforms in PDS at the capital.
"If the two states do not implement, we will take stringent action. One option we have is to supply APL (above poverty line) food grains to them at a higher rate or we completely stop the allocation. Let them buy food grains for APL families at the support price," he said.
"Kerala and Tamil Nadu are the only two states left where the NFSA has not been implemented as yet. Despite being developed states, I fail to understand their reasoned for not doing so," said Paswan, while addressing the meet attended by state food secretaries.
The NFSA, passed by the Parliament in September 2013 during the United Progressive Alliance regime, aims to abolish APL and below poverty line (BPL) criteria, and uniformly provides 5 kgs of wheat or rice to all beneficiaries every month at subsidised rates of Rs 1-3 per kg.
The Kerala government had earlier told New Delhi that it would implement the NFSA from November, but has now postponed the implementation to December, as it would need to prepare infrastructure.
"Kerala says it does not have the necessary wherewithal. I cannot fathom how a developed state like Kerala does not have the requisite infrastructure," said Paswan.
Paswan also urged other states to speed up computerisation of ration cards and to acquire computerised point of sale (PoS) machines in ration shops at the earliest. The minister also said the pace of seeding Aadhaar numbers with ration cards have also not seen progress on expected lines from states.
Paswan said due to Aadhaar seeding, a total of 2.33 crore fraudulent and ghost ration cards have been deleted across 27 states and UTs. This has resulted in significant prevention of leakage of food grains and led to 'Rightful Targeting of Food Subsidies' of an estimated Rs 14,000 crore.
Lack of information was another major issue that came up for discussion. "States must display all information on their portal, right from the number of Aadhaar enrolments done, to ration cards seeded with Aadhaar," said Vrinda Swarup, food secretary.