Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik Tuesday launched the state's own food security scheme to cover the poor people "left out" from the National Food Security Act (NFSA).
While Patnaik launched the scheme through video conferencing and interacted with the people in four districts - Bolangir, Balasore, Sundergarh and Mayurbhanj -, other ministers, MPs and MLAs started the programme in different parts of the state.
The beneficiaries of the State Food Security Scheme (SFSS) will also get cheap rice at the cost of Re 1 as availed by the people covered under the NFSA. Each poor man will get 5 kg of rice per month as per the provision of the National Food Security Act, 2013.
Of the state's 4,19,74,218 population as per the 2011 census, 3,26,41,800 people (about 78 per cent) have been availing the benefits of NFSA. The State Food Security Scheme will now include additional 2.5 million beneficiaries.
As per the provisions of the SFSS, 2.5 billion poor people "left out" from the benefits of the NFSA, will get the cheap rice.
"In 2008, the state government had introduced Rs 2 a kg rice for the poor people and again in 2013, the price was reduced to Re 1 a kg. Before the 2014 elections, we had promised to introduce state's own food security scheme. Today on Gandhi Jayanti Day, we have kept our promise and I am happy that 2.5 million poor people will get rice at the rate of Re 1 a kg," Patnaik said after launching the state scheme.
Stating that food security is the right of the people, Patnaik said when the NFSA was implemented in the state in 2014, many people had been denied the benefit.
"I have urged the Centre many times to cover the left out people. But they did not respond. Today, I am happy as the state's own food security scheme is launched," the chief minister said.
During his interaction with beneficiaries through video conferencing, Patnaik said,"It is your money. There will be no dearth of funds for the poor people in the state."
The Odisha government will spend Rs 4.42 billion per year for implementation of the scheme. The state exchequer will bear additional Rs 2.21 billion from October, 2018 to March, 2019 for implementation of the programme, official sources said.
Distribution of rice to selected beneficiaries will be carried out through e-Point of sale (e-PoS) device at the designated fair price shops.
Opposition BJP and Congress, however, strongly criticised Patnaik's scheme. "This is not state's own food security scheme, but Patnaik's vote security scheme," said BJP state vice-president Samir Mohanty.
Odisha Pradesh Congress Committee (OPCC) president Niranjan Patnaik also alleged that the ruling BJD is indulging in vote-bank politics.
"The state government's own food security scheme is a political move to woo voters ahead of elections," the OPCC president said.
Assembly elections in Odisha are due next year.