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Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Replete with confusion, inaccuracy: Jaya on food security bill

Strongly opposing the draft National Food Security Bill, Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa on Tuesday said it was replete with "confusion and inaccuracy" and asked the Centre not to attempt encroaching into the domains of states.

In a strongly-worded letter to Prime

Minister Manmohan Singh, she said the Central government "should not attempt or be seen to attempt encroaching into the domains of the states" and sought exemption of Tamil Nadu from the purview of the proposed measure.

"In a Federal structure like ours where the states are in close and direct contact with the people, the choice of designing and implementing popular welfare schemes is at best left to the states," Jayalalithaa said responding to the Centre seeking the state's views on the measure.

Noting that the provisions of the bill contemplated achieving food security through Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), the chief minister said "forced implementation of TPDS" would entail an additional financial burden of about Rs 1,800 crore per annum with no statutory commitment forthcoming from the Centre.

"Like the BPL norms proposed by the Union Planning Commission, the categorisation of households and arbitrary restriction of coverage as contained in the Central Bill will lead to controversy and make a mockery of providing food security," she said.

Jayalalithaa said the proposed classification of target groups into Priority House Holds (PHH) and General House Holds (GHH) for the purpose of delivery of food entitlements would "surely invite sharp criticisms and furious opposition from every body concerned".

Noting that the very basis of such classification was "unscientific and unacceptable", she said no reason had been adduced for restricting the coverage under TDPS to 75 per cent of the rural population and 50 per cent of urban population.

Asserting that her government has been successfully implementing the Universal Public Distribution System (UPDS) for the last several years, she said through this initiative, it has been able to address the issue of food security for all without any exception.

In addition, she said, the state government has ordered the supply of rice free of cost to all under the UPDS and said it was well received by the public.

Under UPDS, rice, wheat, sugar and other commodities like toor dal, urad dal, fortified palmolien and atta, were supplied to the public at heavily subsidised prices through 32,977 fair price shops, she said, adding that the annual food subsidy was to the tune of Rs 5,000 Crore.

"I would like to register my strong opposition to the Draft National Food Security Bill 2011," the chief minister said requesting the Centre to not only continue to supply foodgrains to the state at existing price, allowing the same pattern and also restore the monthly allotment of kerosene.

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