State defends low coverage of rice to migrants

SHILLONG: The State Government has defended the below par distribution of rice to migrant labourers saying that the process was retarded due to difficulty in identifying the migrants and their certification at the village level.
Commissioner and Secretary of the Food, Pravin Bakshi told this reporter on Saturday that news reports that some states including Meghalaya had distributed less than one per cent of the allocated food grains was incorrect. He said the percentage of rice distribution against lifting as on July 4, under Atma Nirbhar Bharat was 12.64 per cent.
According to media reports, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ambitious free ration scheme worth Rs 3.16 lakh crore rupees had failed to take off and made little impact on the ground.
However, Bakshi said that the scheme was a special one as it was meant for the stranded migrants and those who did not have any ration card and not covered under NFSA or non-NFSA schemes.
Under Atma Nirbhar Bharat package, the Centre had decided to provide food grains to the migrant labourers free of cost at the rate of 5 Kg per month for two months i.e. May and June last.
However, the problem is that the scheme was limited to overall ceiling of 10 per cent of the NFSA beneficiaries which comes to 2.14 lakh population of the state.
“In this system we had to find out the genuine beneficiaries who do not have card and there was a need for certification and community verification which took time,” he said
When asked to justify the reasons for suddenly raising the price of PDS rice by Rs 1 per kg, he said that it had been done as per Central Government norms i.e only for non-NFSA category rice and not NFSA rice.
“This is also allowed by Ministry and approved by state Government to bear the operational costs of FPS automation and PMU which will have to be borne by state itself,” he said while adding State Government would give only one time grant for installation of ePOS machines.
Bakshi recalled that before NFSA, there was targeted PDS and allocation was locked  but when NFSA came in 2016, the coverage rose to 77.8 % for rural and 50.8 % for urban areas.
As the rest of the consumers were not covered, the balance allocation quota and price was left to the state’s discretion  and thus non-NFSA allocation is seven kg rice per household and covers about 1.33 lakh households.
“For this category, price is Rs 12 -14 as fixed by districts. This has been increased by a rupee,” Bakshi added.

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