Food security law to be reviewed with states Oct 1

New Delhi, Sep 30 (IANS) The United Progressive Alliance government will Tuesday review with states preparations for the implementation of its flagship National Food Security Act Tuesday, a statement said Monday.

The bill, a pet welfare legislation of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, was a part of the Congress election manifesto of 2009, and is widely expected to be a game-changer for the ruling party as it prepares for the 2014 general elections.

Congress-ruled states like Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Mizoram and Delhi have already started implementing the National Food Security Act.

According to the statement, Food Minister K.V. Thomas will review preparations with state food ministers Tuesday.

Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar will open the meeting, which will also be attended by top officials from the Prime Minister's Office, finance and agriculture ministries and the Planning Commission.

The act aims to provide rations at cheap rates to around 67 percent of India's 1.2 billion people, and will cover around 800 million people of the country.

Under the scheme, beneficiaries will receive five kg of food grain per person per month, including rice at Rs.3 per kg, wheat at Rs.2 per kg and coarse grains at Re.1 per kg.

According to the statement, the meeting will discuss criteria to be adopted for identification of beneficiaries by the states, the issue of fresh ration cards, the empowerment of women under the act and doorstep delivery of food grain.

Besides setting up grievance redressal machinery at district and state levels, the computerisation of the public distribution system (PDS), creation of additional storage capacity and opening of new fair price shops will also be deliberated upon at the meeting.

The meeting will also look at measures to ensure more effective roles for local bodies in the implementation of the National Food Security Act, the revamping of vigilance committees at various levels to keep a watch on the distribution system, and new norms for the identification of beneficiaries for distribution of sugar and kerosene under the PDS.

Besides the beneficiaries to be identified by the states, the act has special focus on offering nutritional support to women and children.

Pregnant women and lactating mothers will be entitled to maternity benefit of Rs.6,000 (Rs.1,000 per month for six months), while children in the age group of six months to 14 years will be entitled to meals of high nutritional value under the Integrated Child Development Scheme and the Midday Meal schemes.

The act provides that the eldest woman of the household, of age 18 years or above, will be the head of the household for the purpose of issuing ration cards.

The act has significant provisions for transparency and accountability. PDS-related records will be placed in the public domain, social audit will be taken up and vigilance committees will be set up under the law.

Provision for food security allowance to the entitled beneficiaries has been made in case of non-supply of food grain or meals.

Penalty on public servant or authority will be imposed by the state Food Commission, in case of failure to comply with the relief recommended by the district grievance redressal officer.

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