Food security act to benefit 60 percent of Kashmir population: Minister

Srinagar, Dec 24 (IANS) Notwithstanding the protests against the implementation of the food security act, the Jammu and Kashmir government has asserted it will be implemented from the February 1, 2016, target date and that the issues being raised about the law, benefiting 60 percent of the population, would be addressed.

“The National Food Security Act (NFSA) is applicable to the whole of India. It will be implemented in the state from Febuary 1 next year,” Minister for Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution (CAPD) Choudhary Zulfikar Ali told IANS in an interview.

As for the protests against the act, since the scale of ration has been reduced, Ali told IANS: “Presently we are collecting data from the people to streamline the system. Five kg of rice per person is as per the central law but to increase it is our mandate. We will review this once we get details from the people and will take corrective measures”.

He said, “The controversy is over reduction of the scale, but I assure the people of Kashmir that the government won’t create any deficiency of ration and it will be provided as per 100 percent requirement. The government will maintain a reasonable scale of ration keeping in view the topography and other circumstances of the Valley,” the minister said.

“Under the NFSA, the people in the priority category – more than 60 percent of Jammu and Kashmir’s population – will get an assured supply of ration right at their doorsteps in a hassle-free environment. Any person who is denied ration shall be given the same according to the Food Security Allowance through an inbuilt mechanism which has been incorporated in the act at State level,” he added.

The act was passed by parliament in 2013 to provide for food and nutritional security by ensuring access to adequate quantity of quality food at affordable prices and to enable people to live a life of dignity.

“The whole idea is to put food on table for the poorest of the poor. Presently, the CAPD is providing ration to a population of 12 lakh people at lower rates. But under the NFSA, a massive portion of the population, 74.13 lakh to be exact, will be get rice at Rs.3 per kg and wheat at Rs.2 per kg. Another 45 lakh people will be provided wheat at Rs. 8 per kg and rice at Rs 10 per kg,” Ali said.

The National Food Security Act was a flagship programme of the previous UPA-II government. Omar Abdullah, who then headed a National Conference-Congress coalition government in J&K, however refused to implement it on the ground it would not benefit the people of the state.

The successor PDP-BJP coalition government decided to implement the NFSA.

Describing this as a major achievement of the state government, Ali said: “The ration will be provided to people according to the 2011 census.” Hitherto, the ration was being provided according to the 2001 census.

“The government is committed to the welfare of the people. Through this act, the poor and marginalised sections of society will benefit and ration will be provided at highly-subsidised rates. Surely, this will affect every household in the state, Ali contended.

In this context, he noted that he had “visited various states like Maharastra and Madya Pradesh where NFSA has been implemented, interacted with senior officers of CAPD and witnessed first-hand how it had helped in uplifting the poorest of masses by providing them hassle free rations at subsidized rates. I got a positive response from the states,” Ali added.

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