Large sections of poor are unlikely to benefit from extension of food grains scheme -Swati Narayan

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published Published on Jul 7, 2020   modified Modified on Jul 8, 2020

-The Indian Express

Expansion and universalisation of the PDS, pensions, cash grants and employment guarantee schemes in both urban and rural areas are essential to tide through these difficult times.

The Prime Minister’s extension of free food grains for 800 million Indians till November is undoubtedly a relief. The granaries of the Food Corporation of India (FCI) are overflowing with more than 100 million tonnes of food grains. But the economy has, by and large, come to a standstill. So, 11 chief ministers and the Congress President Sonia Gandhi had written to the Centre requesting a six- month extension of the free food grains provision. But doubling the rations only for those with National Food Security Act (NFSA) ration cards will hardly feed the deprived hungry.

When the law was enacted in 2013, subsidised food grains were made available to only two-thirds of Indians. Since then, the number of excluded have swelled. Economists estimate that 100 million names have not been updated in NFSA lists. Further, the process of selection of beneficiaries has always been fraught with targeting errors. The insistence on linkage with Aadhaar has deprived scores of genuine beneficiaries. Therefore, despite the enactment of the legislation, a spate of starvation deaths, especially among Dalits, Adivasis and Muslims, has come to light in the last five years. Since the abrupt lockdown in March, nearly 200 people have reportedly died of starvation, financial distress and exhaustion. Most, such as 11-year old Rakesh Musahar’s family in Bihar, did not have active ration cards.

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The Indian Express, 7 July, 2020,

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