Odisha Sun Times Bureau
Bhubaneswar, June 3:
The burgeoning number of people applying for registration as beneficiaries under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) has taken the wind out of the sails of the Odisha government, forcing the Food Supplies and Consumer Welfare Minister to order district collectors to weed out bogus applicants.
Food Supplies and Consumer Welfare Minister Sanjay Kumar Dasburma on Tuesday asked district collectors through video conferencing for strict implementation of the guidelines for identifying ineligible applicants and striking them off the list. Das Burma, chief secretary G C Pati and departmental secretary Madhusudan Padhi asked collectors to find out ways and means to identify these applicants and accordingly advise the government.
The NFSA will be put into operation in the state from next October. The process for identifying beneficiaries for the purpose is in its final stages in the state. By Tuesday, registration (digitization) of 96% of the applications of the beneficiaries has been completed, said official sources. More than 90% registration of applicants is complete in all districts, they added. In Jharsuguda district, cent per cent registration has been completed.
Under the NFSA, the state government will provide ‘One rupee a kilo rice’ to registered families. However, the number of applicants has surprised the state government. It is 70 lakh in excess to the number of beneficiaries determined by the Central government for Odisha. In the event of the state government providing subsidized rice to all these applicants, the state exchequer will have to bear a burden of Rs 2,000 crore. The state government will have to bear an additional burden of Rs 600 crore in excess of the Rs 1,403 crore borne by it earlier towards provision of Re 1 a kilo rice. With the additional burden to be borne by the state government, the huge number of applicants has led to a tricky situation.
Based on the guidelines drawn up for the whole of the country under the NFSA, the Central government had fixed the number of beneficiaries for Odisha at 3.26 crore. However, 3.96 crore have applied to be listed as beneficiaries under the scheme in the state. These applicants are members of 1, 05, 36,897 families. By now, the digitization process of 1, 01, 34,002 families in the state has been completed.
Despite extensive public awareness campaigns by the Food Supplies and Consumer Welfare department on who can apply for being listed as beneficiaries and warnings of stringent legal action against ineligible applicants making applications under the scheme by the state government, people have applied for becoming beneficiaries in huge numbers.
It was revealed at the review meeting through video conferencing that digitization of details of 1, 01, 34,002 families had been completed by Tuesday and 3, 82, 28,862 persons of the state’s total population have been included under the programme. While 64, 51,000 families out of them have figured in the Census report, 51, 78,000 have Aadhar cards and 78, 71,000 have Voter Identity Cards.
While digitization has been completed cent per cent in Jharsuguda, its 99 percent in Baleswar, Bargarh and Sonepur districts and 98 percent in the districts of Dhenkanal, Kalahandi, Kendrapada, Mayurbhanj, Nayagarh, Nuapada and Sambalpur.
Under the new scheme, each member of the family will get five kilograms of rice or wheat or both. In the event of the state government providing five kilos of rice to 70 lakh persons beyond the limit fixed by the Central government, the state government will have to bear a monthly burden of Rs 93.75 crore. The state will receive 21 lakh tonnes of food grains under the NFSA. The Centre will provide it at Rs 5.65 a kilo. The state government to provide it at Rs one a kilo has to bear an additional burden of about Rs 800 crore. On the state government keeping its ‘Rs one a kilo rice’ afloat even after the NFSA coming into effect, the state government has to roughly cough up around Rs 2,000 crore from its own coffers.
There are eight criteria for excluding beneficiaries and five for inclusion.
Presently, of the 36.87 lakh BPL families in the state, 12.54 lakh families are covered under the Antodaya Anna Yojana, 6.23 Poverty Left Out (PLO) families, 5.3 lakh KBK APL families, 10,183 fisher families livelihood of which are affected due to ban on fishing to conserve Olive Ridley turtles, 63,772 Annapurna beneficiaries, 1.35 lakh physically challenged beneficiaries, 4.73 lakh ST & SC students residing in hostels and 1,400 inmates of Kasturba Gandhi Girls’ Schools are provided with ‘Rs one a kilo rice’ or for free.
A total of 3.10 crore families in the state are being provided with ‘Rs one a kilo rice’.