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Draft food bill near completion,to cover 70% population: Thomas

Press Trust of India  |  New Delhi 

The government today said the draft Food Security Bill, which entitles nearly two-thirds of the population to subsidised foodgrains, was almost ready.

The Bill will legally entitle up to 70% of population to subsidised foodgrains as against the NAC's proposal to cover 75%.

"We are going to introduce the Food Security Bill, almost 65-70% of the population are going to get the benefit," Food Minister K V Thomas said at the National Conference on "Policy for foodgrains storage, handling and transportation".

A draft bill is "almost at a final conclusive stage", he told reporters on the sidelines of the conference.

The National Advisory Council (NAC), headed by Sonia Gandhi, had recommended to the government to grant legal entitlement of subsidised foodgrains to 75% of population covering both "priority" and "general" households.

But the Rangarajan Committee had raised concerns over foodgrain availability and suggested that it would be "feasible" to cover the "priority" households, and foodgrains could be given to "general" category based on the availability.

On difference of view expressed by the two prominent bodies on covering the number of beneficiaries under the law, Thomas said there was not much difference between the proposals suggested by the NAC and the Rangarajan Committee, except for above poverty line (APL) families.

"..The issue of APL will be addressed. We will come to some kind of conclusion on this," he said, adding that the matter will be discussed again with the Rangarajan Committee.

At present, the government provides 35 kg of food grains to 6.52 crore families below poverty line (BPL) through ration shops. Wheat is provided at Rs 4.15 per kg and rice at Rs 5.65 per kg.

Pointing out the urgency of strengthening storage capacity in the wake of higher requirement of foodgrains under the proposed food bill, the minister said  "We need to improve our storage infrastructure through involvement of private sector."

As a result, the Food Ministry has proposed the Finance Ministry to consider providing fiscal and tax incentives and other facilities in the forthcoming budget to boost private investment in developing warehouse infrastructure, he added.

Implementing NAC's proposal would required 60 million tonnes of foodgrains.

At present, the government has foodgrains storage capacity of 50 million tonnes. Extra space to store about 15 million tonnes will be added in next 3-4 years.

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First Published: Sat, February 19 2011. 17:03 IST