States fail to identify needy under law even as hunger looms large

Bihar leads with 14 lakh unidentified beneficiaries and is followed by Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Odisha; Delhi, Andhra and Bengal yet to pick additional foodgrains under COVID-19 relief plan

Beneficiaries can avail 3.5 kg wheat and 1.5 kg rice per person, and 1 kg chana per family, from fair price shops, starting June 15. Representational image: iStock

Even though the COVID-19 outbreak has made it difficult for the poor to get a square meal, as many as 40 lakh beneficiaries are yet to be identified by several states under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013, that was enacted to ensure subsidised food grains to the impoverished sections of society, says a report by Indian Express.

According to Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution (MoCAF&PD) data, all states and Union territories had identified 80.95 crore beneficiaries of the 81.35 crore accepted number of people under the scheme as on April 15, 2020. The gap in identification has kept as many as 40 lakh people from the ambit of benefits – rice at ₹3 per kg, wheat at ₹2 per kg and coarse grains at ₹1 per kg – under the scheme.

Bihar tops the list with the maximum number of unidentified beneficiaries at 14 lakh. It is followed by Himachal Pradesh with a beneficiary gap of over 8 lakh, Tamil Nadu (7.36 lakh), Odisha (2.61 lakh) and Chandigarh (2.17 lakh).

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Quoting ministry data, the report says Bihar in mid-April identified 8.57 crore NFSA beneficiaries – 1.16 crore under Antodaya Anna Yojana and 7.40 crore under ‘Priority’ category – against its quota of 8.71 crore beneficiaries.

Taking the population count of Census-2011 into account, the Centre had proposed to cover 67 per cent population – 75 per cent rural and 50 per cent urban – under NFSA. Based on criteria fixed by the Planning commission, 85 per cent of rural and 74.53 per cent of urban population of Bihar were covered under NFSA.

Although some states have been unable to identify all beneficiaries, 15 states have shown nil gap in beneficiary identification. They are Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Haryana, Karnataka, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Lakshadweep and Ladakh.

The report says, Delhi, Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal are yet to collect their additional quota – 5 kg grains per person – allocated under the Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY) to NFSA beneficiaries for the next three months in view of the COVID-19 situation.

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While the MoCAF&PD allocated an additional amount of 10.76 lakh metric tons of wheat and 110.67 lakh metric tons of rice under the PMGKY for existing NFSA beneficiaries, only 3.39 LMT wheat and 24.66 LMT rice have been lifted by states till April 16.

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