Despite Centre's prodding, Dispur set to miss fourth deadline
BY OUR STAFF REPORTER
GUWAHATI, March 8: Uncertainty looms large over the implementation of the tiol Food Security Act in Assam, with the State government missing three dates it had earlier proposed for the scheme’s formal launch. Despite New Delhi putting pressure on the State to implement the Act by March 31 this year, the State Food and Civil Supplies department is likely to miss this deadline too.
Sources said that the State government is yet to include more than 50 per cent of mes of the beneficiaries of the Act online as instructed by the Central government. The work of computerization of the list of beneficiaries is moving at a sil’s pace in the State, sources added.
Dispur had announced that it would implement the Act from November 2013. After it missed that date, another was set – February 2014. Having failed to launch it on that date too, the government announced that the Act would be implemented from September 2014, and accordingly all concerned departments were directed to do the necessary groundwork. But the State government failed to launch the scheme in the third date as well.
There are currently 52 lakh card holders in Assam which represent around 2.25 crore of its population.
Interestingly, the State Food and Civil Supplies department, which is the implementing agency, is now facing shortage of officials in key positions. Four posts of joint directors, 13 posts of deputy directors, 9 posts of assistant directors, 15 posts of superintendents and 40 posts of inspectors are currently lying vacant. These officials have a major role to play in the implementation of the tiol Food Security Act.
Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi recently put the blame on the Central government, saying that the computerization of the list of beneficiaries as asked by the latter is an additiol work burden that needs to be handled by the department concerned and hence the delay.
The Food Security Act, which was cleared by Parliament during the tenure of the UPA government, seeks to abolish the Above Poverty Line (APL) and Below Poverty Line (BPL) criteria and uniformly provide 5 kg of wheat or rice to each identified beneficiary at a fixed rate of Rs 3 per kg for rice, Rs 2 per kg for wheat and Rs 1 per kg for coarse grains.
Despite misgivings of experts about the applicability of the scheme, the Congress projected the Food Security Bill as a ‘game changer’ before the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
The UPA government had rushed through an ordince on its key measures, in an indication that the party was keen to pull out all stops in projecting the food security scheme, with its aim of providing right to cheap foodgrains to 82 crore people.
Since the Act was first implemented on July 4, 2014, only 11 of the 28 state governments have implemented it so far. The failure of the Congress government of Assam in implementing the UPA’s much touted scheme, has cast it in a poor light.