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Congress, NCP view food Bill as game-changer

Hope to weather anti incumbency through its effective implementation

Sanjay Jog  |  Mumbai 

The Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) alliance in Maharashtra feels the “game-changing” food security scheme would help it weather anti-incumbency during the ensuing Lok Sabha and Assembly polls.

The state government will launch the food security scheme from December 1 in the state and 71.7 million beneficiaries will be covered.

The Congress-led government at the Centre got the Bill passed in the Lok Sabha on Monday and is expected to table it in the Rajya Sabha soon.

“The (Maharashtra) government is fully equipped to launch the ambitious scheme in the state. The focus is given on transparency. The food grains will be provided by the central government while the transportation and distribution expenses will be shared jointly by the Centre and the state government,” state food and civil supplies minister Anil Deshmukh (NCP) told Business Standard.

The Congress and the NCP are expected to soon finalise a 26:22 seat-sharing formula for the Lok Sabha elections and, thereafter, chalk out a joint campaign strategy to take on Shiv Sena-Bharatiya Janata Party alliance. Assembly elections will be held in the state after the Lok Sabha elections, scheduled for May 2014.

According to Ratnakar Mahajan, spokesman of the Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee, the implementation of the food security scheme will add to the credibility of the ruling coalition in the state. “Identification of beneficiaries with respect to BPL (below poverty line) and AAY (Antyodaya Anna Yojana) families in Maharashtra is more or less up to date. In addition, identification of other categories who are entitled to benefit from the food scheme can be completed in a couple of months, provided the concerned machinery acts promptly and efficiently,” he said.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan was quite elaborate in his reaction. Terming it a landmark decision, Chavan said the law would have socio-political change in the society. “We will implement this law in our state at our fullest capacity. The Congress party’s dream of poverty alienation will now become a reality,” he said.

On the other hand, NCP hopes the food security scheme will help it reach out to a larger constituency in the run-up to the elections. An NCP leader, who did not want to be named, admitted effective implementation would be possible due to a slew of initiatives taken by the food and civil supplies department held by party minister Anil Deshmukh.

Meanwhile, Deshmukh said the government proposed to scrap the yellow, white and saffron ration cards currently in use under the public distribution scheme. These cards will be replaced by bar coded smart cards having a photograph of the family chief.

Furthermore, the government has undertaken a massive computerisation drive. Besides, an SMS scheme has been introduced whereby information with regard to the monthly food grains supply in the respective areas will be sent to ration card holders.

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First Published: Wed, August 28 2013. 00:32 IST