Mumbai : The State Government has geared up all its machinery to launch the Food Safety Bill in the State from December and has decided to introduce bar-coded ration cards, computerised system, group SMS, distribution of food in the presence of all villagers to check corruption in food distribution. This scheme will benefit more than 7 crore people of the State which will include Antyoday, Below-Poverty Line and also large part of saffron type ration card holders.

Though date of the implementation of the bill is not finalised yet, it is expected that the scheme can be launched on December 12, birthday of NCP president Sharad Pawar.

As in South Mumbai, it is not financially feasible to rent a place to open the ration shop, the State has decided to run mobile ration shops in Mumbai to implement the scheme.

“Instead of current Antyoday, BPL, Saffron, Annapurna and white ration cards, there will be only two types of ration cards. Priority (Antyoday) and Priority (other) will be the ration cards with bar coding. All saffron card holders will not be eligible for the scheme, we are excluding some of them and criteria for the exclusion will be decided soon. White card holders will not get benefit under this scheme,’’ Anil Deshmukh, Minister for Food and Civil Supplies announced at a press conference.

“If the State Government fails to supply foodgrains, the ration card holders will get Food Safety Allowance. But what will be the rate of this allowance whether it will be market rate of Minimum Support price will be decided by Central government soon,’’ he stated. There will be a grievance redressal officer of the rank of Deputy Collector or Additional Collector and they will have authority to take action after proper hearing.

There will be a State Food Safety Commission having 5 members and one president. Out of five members at least two will be women. It will hear appeal against district grievance redressal officers and also coordinate for effective implementation of the scheme. State has already on the way to complete computerisation of Public Distribution System. “ We have entered data of more than 7.50 crores ration card holders out of which 7.12 crore card holders will get benefit. Now we are validating information collected about these card holders. After validation new bar coded cards having photograph of senior women member of the family as family head will be issued,’’ Deshmukh announced.

To ensure transparency, state has launched www.mahafood.gov.in website which gives all details of food availability and its distribution. People across the state can lodge complaints on toll free no. 1800-22-4950. At 25 ration card holder per ration card shops have been added in group SMS scheme. There are total 51,566 such groups in the State which sends SMSes to 58 lakh people to inform them about monthly allotment dispatched to ration shop,’’ he said.

Meanwhile, the Maharashtra Government in collaboration with the Food Corporation of India has begun to strengthen the food grain storage system, by constructing godowns at an estimated cost of Rs 2,000 crore. This will add 611 more godowns in the state creating 13 Lakh Metric Tonne additional storage capacity in addition to existing 5.50 Lakh MT capacity of 1024 godowns existing in the state.

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