NEW DELHI: Union Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan's twitter gaffe notwithstanding, Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan is hopeful the Centre would increase his state's share of rice, and food
grain in general, or at least restore it to the older quota of 16.25 metric tonnes.
No sooner had Kerala Chief Minister Vijayan met with the Union Food Minister Paswan with the demand of higher allocation of foodgrains for the state for the National Food Security Act, Paswan
was onto Twitter sharing his photo-op with Vijayan in keeping with the Modi Government's social media savvy line. Only problem was— he named Kerala CM as O Paneerselvam.
Far from doing a Jallikattu on Vijayan, Paswan was actually wanting to help the Kerala CM -- an old acquaintance from UF days. Presumably, the mixup -- an inadvertent mistake -- was the result of the
Tamil Nadu CM being in news thanks to the fierce bull run and the youth uprising thereof.
Well, the meeting was of a serious import, and the Kerala CM took the gaffe like a good sport, with a brush of hand, without any invocation of pride. His focus was more on the allocation of rice and
subsidised sugar for distribution among migrant workers and welfare institutions.
In his meeting, Vijayan also asked the Centre to extend the rice procurement period for three months. Having rolled out the National Food Security Act in November 2016, under which foodgrains have to
be made available to the poor at a subsidised rate of Rs 1-3 per kg via public distribution system, Kerala is in need of a higher allocation from the Centre.
“Kerala CM has placed many demands before us. One is increasing foodgrains allocation under NFSA,” Paswan told reporters after the meeting. Sources said, the Kerala Chief Minister's basic demand was that his state foodgrains supply for PDS supply should, at least, be restored to the level of pre-NFSA days.
While under the NFSA, the state is getting 14.25 lakh tonnes of foodgrains annually, it used to get 16.25 lakh tonnes earlier.
There was a bit of hand wringing on the part of the Union Food Minister, who pointed that the Centre has adopted a uniform for all states while allocating foodgrains.
“Allocation under the NFSA is being made taking into account last three years’ average foodgrains lifting of the state. And the average was 10 lakh tonnes per annum for Kerala. But more is being
given to protect poor people,” a Food Ministry official said.
Kerala is asking for more allocation under the NFSA as it wants to cover the entire population. And that's beyond the policy of the Centre.
Among other demands, the Kerala government has asked more subsidy support as the state wants to sell subsidised sugar to the entire population under the PDS. At present, sugar is supplied to only families of below poverty line (BPL).
It has also asked for parboiled rice and additional foodgrains allocation of about 50,000 tonnes per month to meet the demand of 10-15 lakh migrant workers in the state.
The state has also demanded to up the foodgrains allocation to 550 tonnes per month for welfare institutions from the existing monthly allocation of 212 tonnes , while it has sought central support to
make extra payment to state-run FCI labourers.
That apart, the Kerala government has asked the Centre to extend rice procurement period for three months.