Paswan assures higher NFSA rice quota; slams State

New Delhi/ Bhubaneswar: Union Food and Public Distribution minister Ramvilas Paswan today slammed the State government for politicizing Odisha’s demand for an increase in rice quota under the National Food Security Act (NFSA).

Paswan said the Centre had never refused to do so and was already looking into the matter. Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan today met Paswan in this regard following which the Union food minister said that the centre is planning to implement the increased quota from June 2016.

“We had a discussion and my fellow minister urged that the quota of rice should be increased in comparison to wheat from 79:21 to 85:15. Pradhan informed that rice is the staple diet of Odisha people and is consumed in substantially higher proportion compared to wheat. Pradhan had also earlier drawn my attention to the issue and we had already constituted a committee. We are expecting the report from the Committee soon. There are similar demands from other states as well. However, Odisha’s case is different as it is a rice-producing state and is also a surplus state. Hence, we have assured the State that their demand for a rice-wheat quota of 85:15 will be fulfilled and we will take steps to implement it from June, 2016. The state government is already receiving 21 lakh tonnes of food grains even after NFSA implementation. Pre-NFSA, we use to provide wheat at Rs 4.15/kg and rice at Rs 6.65/kg to the below poverty line people. For people above poverty line, we used to provide wheat at Rs 6.10/kg and rice at Rs 8.30/kg. Earlier there were 68 lakh beneficiary families and now under NFSA the number of beneficiaries has increased to 76 lakh. Post NFSA, we are providing wheat at Rs 2/kg and rice at Rs 3/kg to all beneficiaries,” said Paswan.

Urging the State government to refrain from doing politics on the issue, Paswan said “When the ruling party MPs met me, I told them that a committee is being constituted and we will look into the matter. However, the ruling party has called for a bandh over the matter. This is absolute politicization of the issue. We have not slashed the quantity of foodgrains and are continuing to provide the same. It is wrong to politicize the issue despite our assurance that we are looking into the demands.

“Moreover, I would like to highlight that the central government is bearing Rs 28/kg in the subsidized rice that is being supplied in Odisha, . The state government is only bearing Rs 2/kg subsidy while the consumer has to pay Rs 1/kg. I don’t understand what kind of politics is this. There should be no politicization of the issue and I have again assured Pradhan to implement their demands by June 2016,” Paswan said.

“I remember when the MPs of the ruling party met Paswan and they were assured that a committee set up for the purpose will look into the matter and take a decision. Today we have taken a decision. I don’t understand what the State government is protesting about,” said Dharmendra Pradhan.

On the other hand BJD MP Tathagat Satpathy said “As a political party we will fight for our people or will sleep over the matter. We are using all options from meeting the minister, writing letters to arranging protests to make sure that our demands are heard.”

“Showing respect to our demands the Union minister might have accepted our requirements. However, we will not stop till we receive the required amount of rice,” said BJD leader Pratap Jena.