Govt finalising system to extend ration to all homeless: Food Secretary

The government is in the process of finalising a system to provide ration to all homeless people who do not have ration cards, Union Food Secretary Sudhanshu Pandey said on Thursday.

“That process is on and the development of the system is in final stages and then it will be put to trial…,” he said at a press conference when asked about the government’s plan to introduce a system to provide ration to the people who don’t have ration cards.

“The whole system is basically to capture all homeless, shelter less, destitute who might not have ration cards but state governments have not either issued them the ration cards for reasons of lack of identity or lack of home address. All these issues will get addressed,” Pandey said.

S Jagannathan, Joint Secretary, Department of Food and Public Distribution, said there are about 1.6 crore people across the nation who are yet to be identified as per the coverage ratio of the states under the National Food Security Act, 2013.

“If you look at coverage under the NFSA, which is 81.35 crore, we find that the states have so far managed to cover something like 79.71 crore people and we keep giving advisories to the states. In fact, a few months ago, there was still a coverage gap of 1.6 crore people across several states. They must immediately reach out and properly identify those people who are most eligible and vulnerable within that state to come under the NFSA subject to the coverage limit,” he said.

Jagannathan said the states can buy foodgrain for non-NFSA cardholders under the Centre’s Open Market Sale Scheme (OMSS).
According to the Food Department, 71.44 lakh metric tonnes of wheat and rice has been sold under the OMSS till December 29, 2021 against 20.71 LMT during the same period last year. Out of the 71.44 LMT foodgrains sold under the OMSS, 11.21 lakh tonnes was lifted by the states for distribution to non-NFSA beneficiaries, said Subodh Kumar, Joint Secretary, Food Department.

Sharing updates about the roll-out of One Nation One Ration Card (ONORC) scheme, which is aimed at enabling ration card portability, Food Department’s officials said till now it has been implemented across 34 states and Union Territories covering 75 crore beneficiaries and the remaining two states – Assam and Chhattisgarh – will be covered by end of the current financial year.

According to the department, 50 crore portability transactions have been crossed under the ONORC plan, delivering foodgrains equivalent to about Rs 34,100 crore in food subsidy. During the Covid-19 period, about 45 crore portability transactions took place, which is equivalent to about Rs 30,100 crore in food subsidy.

Responding to a query about price rise, the Food Secretary said the prices of pulses have stabilised while prices of edible oil have come down. Prices of rice and wheat are stable, he said. “Situation is going to be stable,” Pandey said.

Sharing details of edible oil prices, Joint Secretary Kumar said the government had held several meetings with the edible oil associations and motivated them to have realistic maximum retail prices. They have reduced their MRP by 15-20 per cent, he said, adding that because of all these initiatives, edible oil prices at the major centers have reduced by 10-25 per cent.

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