Chennai: Tamil Nadu chief minister J.Jayalalithaa said on Tuesday that she was opposed to the National Food Security Bill, which was approved by the Union cabinet on Sunday and will be introduced in Parliament soon.
“In a federal structure like ours, where the states are in close and direct contact with the people, the choice of designing and implementing popular welfare schemes is best left to the states,”
Jayalalithaa said in a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. “The Union government should not attempt or be seen to attempt encroaching into the domains of the states.”
Subsidised foodgrains were being already provided by state’s Universal Public Distribution System that operates through nearly 33,000 fair price shops with an annual subsidy budget of Rs 5,000 crore, the chief minister said.
The proposed Bill on food security is replete with confusion and inaccuracy, Jayalalithaa said, saying that the classification of target groups into priority households and general households for food entitlements “is unscientific and unacceptable.”
The implementation of the Food Security Bill will put an additional strain of Rs 1,800 crore a year on the state government, Jayalalithaa said.
“While Jayalalithaa’s motives may be suspect and she could be playing party politics, the issues she is touching are fundamental ones,” said Gnani Sankaran, a Chennai-based political analyst.
“Related to food security, policies should be created by the state and the centre should play the role of the facilitator and bring about harmony between the different policies of states.”
The proposed food security bill seeks to provide 75% of the rural population and 50% of urban households 7 kg of foodgrain per person every month, at Rs 3 per kg for rice, Rs 2 per kg for wheat and Re1 per kg for coarse grains. It also provides for cash handouts of Rs 6,000 for pregnant and lactating women in 52 districts.