Differences between United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Chairperson Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council (NAC) and the government over the coverage of the proposed Food Security Act refuses to die.
NAC recently came out with its own draft on the Food Security Bill sticking to its position after the food ministry’s draft diluted the Council’s recommendations on coverage of families in rural areas. The NAC draft has maintained the coverage of 90 per cent rural population under the Bill.
“The state government shall ensure that not less than 90 per cent of all rural households are entitled to subsidised food grains,” the NAC draft said. The food ministry is believed to be in favour of lowering the number of above poverty line families in rural areas from 44 per cent as recommended by NAC to 29 per cent.
This would mean less than 90 per cent of the households in rural areas could be included for legal entitlement for grains. However, there is no change in the number of families eligible for legal entitlement of grains in urban areas. The NAC draft which was posted on its website said states should ensure that not less than 50 per cent of all urban households are entitled to subsidised food grains. The draft food Bill prepared by the government also seeks to provide legal entitlement for food to an equal number of families.
Recently, a group of over 40 eminent global and Indian economists have written a letter to the NAC chief to ensure that the proposed Bill is quite comprehensive and excludes only a few rich people.
Meanwhile, the NAC draft is in agreement with almost all other issues currently in the process of being finalised in the official draft.
They also want Gandhi to get the Bill legislated in such a way it is not based on the current public distribution system for all times to come as direct subsidy transfer could also be an option later.
It too, has recommended constitution of a National Food Commission, a replica of which should also be formed in the states.
It also favoured a multi-layered grievance redressal mechanism as also the official draft. Entitlement for grains to pregnant women, destitute, homeless and others is also the almost the same as the officially prepared draft.