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Fear over subsidised rations for non-priority households

The ongoing move by the state Cooperation, Food and Consumer Protection Department to frame the final version of the Tamil Nadu Food Security Rules, 2017, which splits ration card (Smart Card) holders into priority and non-priority households, could result in the latter losing subsidised rations, top civil supplies officials revealed.

Fear over subsidised rations for non-priority households
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“The state has issued from April 1, a total of 1.18 crore smart cards to consumers with another 13 lakh such cards under process,” officials said.

The government gazette notification dated July 5 this year in addition to seeking applicants for the posts of chairperson and members of the proposed state food commission also lists guidelines for identification of priority householders (PH) in urban and rural areas separately.

While, the Antyodaya Anna Yojana families and the Annapurna Anna Yojana families figure in both rural and urban households, other inclusions are BPL (Below Poverty Line) beneficiaries of welfare schemes including old age pensioners (OAP), households headed by single woman and houses headed by differently abled persons with more than 40 per cent disability. 

The urban PH include slum dwellers, resettlement colonies, rag pickers, and unskilled workers, while the rural PH dwellers include agricultural labourers and vulnerable families identified by a survey. 

Those who do not get the PH tag include homes with one income tax paying member, those paying professional tax, those having more than 5 acres of land, houses where members work or have retired from state and centre, local bodies, corporations and autonomous bodies of the central/state and local government, households owning four-wheeler and air conditioners, houses having more than three rooms with pucca wall and roof, households owning or operating a registered enterprise and those houses whose annual family income from all sources is more than Rs 1 lakh. 

Political parties fear that this is the first move by the Centre to provide subsidised rations only for the priority households, while others might have to pay regular prices in a bid to cut down the huge subsidy burden borne by the state government at present.

PMK leader Dr S Ramadoss in a statement said the government claim that rations would continue to be provided for all could not be believed as the Centre, which was reducing food subsidy was also forcing state governments to follow suit. 

With the state government facing a fund crunch, its assurance on universal PDS continuation could mean an empty promise. 

While sources close to Food Minister R Kamaraj said that there was no move to water down the present universal PDS, department sources said that a three-month field survey completed in December last ensured that government had all the necessary details on hand. 

Department officials seeking anonymity said Smart Cards would have the legend PH inscribed on it for identification of such households. 

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