The union government on Thursday decided to give another three months to state governments to implement the National Food Security Act, which gives two-thirds of the country's population the right to subsidised grain.
The decision was reportedly taken at a meeting held by Prime Minister Narendra Modi with finance minister Arun Jaitley.
"The deadline for implementation of National Food Security Act expires on 4 July. The government has decided to extend the deadline by three months," food supplies minister Ram Vilas Paswan said. An executive order will soon be issued in this regard, he added.
The Act was pushed through last year by the previous Congress-led UPA government. The now-ruling Bharatiya Janata Party had called the welfare scheme too narrow to tackle the widespread malnutrition among India's millions of poor.
The plan would cost the country nearly Rs1,20,000 crore. Paswan said the inability of some states to implement it has delayed its roll-out.
Notably, the new government has not repudiated the scheme. Instead it says the delay in implementation is due to problems in identifying beneficiaries in different states.
The centre sets a cap on the number of beneficiaries, based on poverty figures for each state. According to its quota, each state identifies the households that will be eligible for the subsidized grain, which will use the existing Public Distribution System (PDS) to deliver the rice and wheat.
So far, only 11 states or union territories have completed this process.