IMPHAL, Jun 21: Even though the National Food Security Act (NFSA) 2013 envisages to provide food grains to the people of the country at highly subsidised rates, complaints about non-distribution of NFSA rice are galore in the State.
The dismal picture has been made even more murky with the Manipur State Food Commission (MSFC) which should be directly monitoring implementation of NFSA in the State lying defunct.
MSFC was set up under Section 16 of the NFSA 2013. CAF&PD Department designated the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission as the State Food Commission but the commission exists just for name’s sake.
With the MSFC serving no purpose, people who have been deprived of NFSA have benefited very little from it.
As per the provisions of NFSA, MSFC should monitor implementation of the same Act. MSFC can take up suo-moto cases and take up necessary measures when there is any report or complaints about non-distribution of subsidised rice under NFSA.
The commission is also authorised to advise the Government, said MSFC Chairman Justice Nandakumar.
The commission which should be serving the public in a commendable way remains defunct as it does not have the requisite quorum, he told The Sangai Express.
The rice entitled to the 16 districts of Manipur in a month under NFSA is 115222.70 quintals. This includes priority households’ quota of 93635.05 quintals and AAY quota of 21589.65 quintals.
As per 2011 census report, the total population of Manipur was 28.56 lakh. Altogether 88.56 per cent of the rural population and 85.75 per cent of the rural population should be covered by NFSA.
In terms of population figures, 25.06 lakh people including 17.91 lakh in rural areas and 7.15 lakh people in urban areas are encompassed by NFSA.
NFSA was launched in the State by then Chief Minister O Ibobi on April 15 last year. Apart from rice, an eligible person is entitled to 5 Kgs of food grains in a month under NFSA. Rice, wheat and coarse grain should be provided at the rates of Rs 3 per Kg, Rs 2 per Kg and Re 1 per Kg respectively.
Even though NFSA is an ambitious plan to provide food security to all the citizens of the country, it tells a very different story in Manipur. Reports and complaints about non-distribution of subsidised rice are published almost every single day in the media. What is even more pitiable is that it seems there is no authority to look after this sorry state of affairs.
Speaking to The Sangai Express on the matter at his Old Assembly complex office, MSFC Chairman Justice T Nandakumar said that the commission is empowered to take suo-moto cases based on media reports/complaints about non-distribution of rice under NFSA regularly to the specified quantity.
“However, except myself, there is neither the member secretary nor any other staff. The commission is short of the requisite quorum. That is why, it remains totally helpless”, Justice Nandakumar said.
As per section 16 of NFSA, the State Food Commission should have seven members including one Chairperson, one Member Secretary and five Members. A Government officer not below the rank of Joint Secretary should be nominated as the commission’s Member Secretary. The Chairperson is nominated by the State Government at the recommendation of the High Court Chief Justice and he/she enjoys a status equivalent to a High Court Judge.
It is not a Constitutional post and the Government has no authority to remove the Chairperson casually.
To a query, Justice Nandakumar said he has written to both the State Government and the Government of India informing that MSFC has been lying defunct as it lacks the requisite quorum but to no avail so far.
Additional Deputy Commissioners have been already nominated as District Grievance Redressal Officers (DGRO) and if they discharge their duties effectively, the issue of non-distribution of subsidised rice may be mitigated to some extent, Justice Nandakumar continued.
Meanwhile, reports received from CAD&PD Department informed that monthly rice allocations have been issued till the month of June. While some agents have lifted rice, some others could not lift rice due to disputes.
On the other hand, it is reported that the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission headed by Justice T Nandakumar has been functioning satisfactorily.
The commission was set up under Section 18 of Consumer Protection Act 1985.
The commission is authorised to entertain complaints pertaining to unfair trade practices, banking services, insurance service, postal service, medical negligence, education service, railway service, telephone, transport, tour and travel, agriculture, mobile phone, housing and construction service, legal service etc, Justice Nandakumar elaborated.
He then expressed surprise on the lack of awareness among the vast majority of people about their rights.
Source: The Sangai Express