The food ministry is hopeful that the much-awaited National Food Security Bill could be placed before Parliament in the in forthcoming winter session for final approval. According to senior officials from the ministry, the bill which is currently being vetted by a Parliament standing committee could be placed for approval in the coming winter session.
The standing committee is at present in the process of holding discussion with different state governments and once they finish their consultation, fresh cabinet approval will be needed after considering the suggestions of the committee. “We are trying to bring this legislation in the winter session itself, if not then maybe by the next session.” Food Minister K.V. Thomas said.
Thomas recently apprised Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his counterpart in agriculture Sharad Pawar on the progress in this crucial piece of legislation. The department had proposed an alternative plan for making the Bill operational. Its suggestions are also being considered by the standing committee.
The new plan, as proposed by the Food Department, seeks to widen the scope of people covered under the programme to 67-68 per cent of entire population as against 64 per cent proposed in the current draft food bill, which is being vetted by the Standing Committee. Officials said the alternative plan for the food security bill has also got the nod from the food ministry and the finance ministry and Planning Commission.
The plan ‘B’ seeks to provide uniform 25 kilograms of cheap grains (5 kilograms per person per month) to all poor families irrespective of the below and above poverty line distinction. Rice will be given at Rs 3 per kg, wheat at Rs 2 per kg and coarse cereals at Rs 1 per kg.
The earlier draft National Food Security bill had sought to provide legal entitlement for cheap grains to 75 of the rural households in the country and 50% of urban household. Priority category households which are a classification similar to the current below poverty line (BPL) were to be supplied 7 kilograms of grains per person per month, while general category households will be given 3-4 kilograms of grains per person per month.
At present almost the targeted public distribution system (TPDS), provides subsidized grains to around 6.52 crore below poverty line and almost 11.05 crore above poverty line families.
Once the bill is implemented, the country’s average annual procurement will have to rise to 60-65 million tonnes as against the current 55-60 million tonnes grains.
The new proposal of distributing fewer grains to wider number of people would require around 62 million tonnes of grains every year as against the current average procurement level of 55-60 million tonnes.