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Draft food Bill warns against diversion of farm land

Sanjeeb Mukherjee  |  New Delhi 

Says it may compromise food and nutritional security.

Amid rising disputes over land acquisition, the draft food Bill has cautioned against unwarranted diversion of farm land, as it may compromise food and nutritional security.

“For further advancing food and nutritional security, the central, state and local governments shall strive to progressively realise steps to prohibit unwarranted diversion of land and water from food production,” said the draft Bill, cleared recently by an empowered group of ministers.

The proposed law, which will now be placed before the Cabinet, also sought to ensure that not only grains are distributed as a matter of right, but also the Centre, states and local authorities must strive to improve agricultural production.

According to a preliminary assessment made by the food ministry, the country would need 61 million tonnes (mt) of grains for effective running of the food security act. At present, the government’s annual grain procurement hovers between 55 and 60 mt.

The draft Bill seeks to provide subsidised grains to 75 per cent of the rural population, of which 46 per cent will belong to the priority sector (which can loosely be classified as similar to the current below poverty line families). Almost 50 per cent of the urban population will also be covered through the Bill.

Officials said families under the priority category would be supplied seven kg of grains per person per month, while general category households (which are classified as above poverty line families) will be given 3-4 kg of grains per person per month.

Rice will be given to priority sector households at Rs 3 a kg, wheat at Rs 2 a kg and coarse cereals at Rs 1 per kg. For general category families, grains will be supplied at a price related to the minimum support price.

Officials estimate the country’s annual food bill will rise to Rs 94,987 crore after the food security Bill is enacted.

The draft said agrarian reforms should be undertaken keeping in mind the interests of small and marginal farmers.

“Investments in agriculture should be raised including that in research and development,” the draft said.

It also called for measures to incentivise decentralised procurement, geographical diversification of procurement operations and giving top priority to the movement of grains from one place to another. The draft also called for revitalising the public distribution mechanism in states.

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First Published: Wed, July 20 2011. 00:31 IST
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