What are the other elements of this scheme?
It seeks to empower women. In a household, the eldest woman (at least 18 years old) will be regarded the head of the household for issue of ration card. If there is no female in the household, the eldest male would be eligible. Also, pregnant women and lactating mothers, besides being entitled to nutritious meals as per the prescribed nutritional norms will also receive maternity benefit at least of Rs. 6000/-. Children in the age group of 6 months to 14 years will be entitled to take home ration or hot cooked food as per prescribed nutritional norms.
How much grain is required and how much will this cost?
The total estimated foodgrains requirement is 612.3 lakh tonnes a year. This requires a subsidy of Rs 1,24,747 crore but with many welfare schemes already in place, the additional subsidy would be about Rs 23,800 crore.
How will the beneficiaries by chosen?
States and union territories can frame their own criteria or use social, economic and caste census data.
Is there any opposition to the scheme?
It is widely regarded as a political strategy to win votes for the next general elections due in 2014 and state assembly elections before that.
What are the concerns?
There are many concerns.
1. It may squeeze out private traders from the grain market, giving state agencies such as the Food Corp of India total dominance in the trade.
2. Small farmers who go grow grains for personal consumption may shift to other crops to make more money and buy subsidised grain. This can affect foodgrain output.
3. There may be many leakages and malpractices.
4. It may put a huge subsidy burden on the government, which can derail the fiscal situation.