August 26, 2013
AITC MP in LS Kalyan Banerjee on Food Security Bill
Mr. Chairman, Sir, in principle we want food for all the people of this country. But this Bill should not remain as a political gimmick only. Without implementing the Bill in the entire country, it should not be taken as a political gimmick before the ensuing election.
Sir, when there is a complete Act and detailed procedures have been laid down in the Act itself, and the rule making power has also been given, what is the necessity of Section 38 of the Act itself? In fact, Section 38 of the Act has given unbridled discretionary power to the Central Government for interfering with the State`s function. That will hit the federal structure of the country. I would request the hon. Minister, when there is a complete Act, rule-making power is there, you can amend the Act as and when necessary, kindly delete Section 38. Unless it is deleted, it is difficult for us to support the Bill. In no sense, in no way, the Central Government should interfere with the federal structure of the country.
The current Targeted Public Distribution System in a State gives universal coverage to the entire population of 9.13 crore divided into three categories, that is, Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY), BPL and APL. In contrast, this Bill will not give universal coverage as it intends to cover only 75 per cent of the rural population and up to 50 per cent of the urban population which may be reassessed by the Central Government again. Initial indication given by the Government of India was that the State will get coverage of 637 lakh persons, but later it has been reduced to 601 lakh persons based on the NSSO Survey, 2011-12. This should be based on the 2013 Survey and not on the 2011 Survey, when you are introducing the Bill in 2013.
Sir, though there is a provision under Section 22, sub-Section (2) to provide assistance to the State for intra-State movement, handling of food-grains, margin of the FPS dealers, to create and maintain modern and scientific storage facilities, the Government of India may not bear the entire expenditure towards such expenses. In effect, for implementation of Chapter 9, Chapter 11, Chapter 12, Chapter 13, the whole expenses have to be borne by the State Government.
You are taking credit from here as if the Central Government is giving everything. But the entire implementation, the whole infrastructure, for the four chapters, which I referred to, whole expenses have to be borne by the State Governments. Therefore, we request that for implementation of this Act, the entire financial liability should be taken by the Central Government. Credits will be taken by the Central Government and the whole credit, before election. And the entire expenditure has to be borne by the State Governments. That cannot be done.
The Central financial assistance will further be required to set up additional support system and grievance redress system as envisaged under the Act, such as establishing the Office of Grievances Redressal, Grievances Redressal offices at different levels and infrastructural support to State Food Commission. There is no indication of such assistance under this Act.
The intention under this Act is for issue of new ration cards to the entitled beneficiaries. The process will require substantial expenditure. The cost for West Bengal has been estimated to be more than Rs. 110 crores whereas the Government of India intends to provide nominal assistance of about Rs. 26 crores. Therefore, the Government of India should have to bear the whole cost of survey and issuance of new ration cards under this Act.
In case of short supply of food grains from Central pool, State Government would have to meet the obligation by procuring food grains from the market. Section 23 of the Act allows Central Government to determine the manner of repayment of such compensation. Section 33 should be suitably modified to guarantee that the reimbursement is not less than the actual cost incurred by the Central Government.
Sir, the Central Government is changing its funding policy in so many CSS, Central schemes, including important flagship programmes in the areas of education and health. In Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan Programme, initially when it was started, there was a major intervention for universalisation of education. When they introduced it, the share of Centre and State in 2001-02 was 85 per cent and 15 per cent. Now, the State`s shares have been increased from that 15 per cent to 35 per cent and the entire Centre`s share has been reduced from 85 per cent to 80 per cent despite the repeated objections by the States. At the time when they were introducing it, a great hope was given but ultimately it had been reduced by the Central Government.
Similarly, in the National Rural Health Mission, a critical programme to improve primary health care, the contribution of the State has been increased from 15, during its inception, to 25 per cent in 2012-13. Such unilateral increases inflicted on the States, makes it difficult for States, mostly for the debt States as ours, to provide such incremental counterpart funding for accessing the CSS funds. Inability of the State to provide such increased counter funding due to huge debt servicing obligations, deprives the State Governments to access these funds from the Government of India. It also severely reduces the fiscal space availability to the State within its budget to channelise its funds to its own important priority areas.
Recently, the State Government has been informed by the Planning Commission about the decision of the Indian Cabinet to do a major restructuring of 142 CSS to 66 CSS, they are merging the existing schemes under the single umbrella scheme. The existing schemes will continue in the current financial year. But the State is apprehensive that the funding pattern of the reconstruction of CSS may be increasing the shares of the States. Therefore, we are very much in apprehension as to what is the mode of financial pattern or financial liability. Initially one commitment is there. Day by day and year after year it is being decreasing. Ultimately it becomes the State`s burden and State has to discharge these duties.
Sir, I would like to request the hon. Minister to consider the constitution of the Civil Supplies Corporation in every State for implementing these types of Schemes and computations of the whole PDS. There would be identification of the beneficiaries – inclusion and exclusion errors and it should be vested with the State Government.
There is no specified storage capacity. What should be the storage capacity? In fact, in our country, there are litigations because of this. It gives a wide discretionary power to the officers. So, a definite procedure should be laid down on this in the Act. Then, there is transportation of food grains and viability of the fair price shops. There are fair price shops linked up with only 20 or 25. There are fair price shops linked up with 100 or 150. Therefore, the Act should mention regarding the viability of the fair price shops, accountability and monitoring, and allocation of the food grains as per the units. Sir, this is the whole allocation. Now, the allocation for PDS is the most important part, and this Act has taken the 2011 population. Now, this whole allocation for PDS food grains should always be done on the basis of the current assessment of the population, and the allocation should be reassessed and it should be done as per the 2013 projected population. The 2013 projected population must be there. This has been done on the basis of 2011 population, and it will not go to the benefits of all the poor people in this country.
There must be special measures for the poorest districts in the country. For them, the benefits should be given more than this.
Public Distribution System, management of scarcity and distribution of food grains at affordable prices should be made. PDS has been the important part of the Government policy for distribution of food economy. It should be implemented very honestly, sincerely and properly. It should go to the people who deserve, and the whole mechanism should be on the basis that the people of this country must get it.
I would like to request the hon. Minister to delete Section 38. It is not needed at all. Why is it needed? Why are you giving the discretionary power right from passing of Orders by the Central Government from time to time? The Act is complete, and the rule-making power is there. Incorporate whatever you like in the Rules but delete Section 38 so that we can support this Bill.