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National Food Security scheme likely to be implemented first in Congress-ruled states

Sanjeeb Mukherjee  |  New Delhi 

The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s ambitious social security programme — the proposed National Food Security scheme — could be implemented in Congress-ruled states ahead of others.

The Budget, to be tabled tomorrow in Parliament, is likely to give substantial allocation to the programme.

The Centre plans to launch the programme across the country simultaneously. However, given the opposition of some non-Congress-ruled states to certain provisions of the Bill, there is a possibility that Congress-ruled states might implement it first, said sources. Opposition-ruled states such as Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal have raised objections to various provisions of the Bill.

A Parliamentary standing committee had recommended that below-poverty-line and above-poverty-line categories be merged. It had also said five kg of grain be given to a beneficiary per month at Rs 3 a kg for rice, Rs 2 for wheat and Rs 1 a kg for coarse cereals.

It also advocated that the coverage under the Food Security Bill be hiked to 67 per cent from the earlier 64 per cent, of which at least 75 per cent should be in rural India and 50 per cent in urban parts. The Budget is likely to clear the air in this regard.

According to sources, the food ministry has accepted all major recommendations of the standing committee, barring merging the beneficiaries of the Antyodaya Anna Yojana into the uniform category.

The ministry had suggested that 90 per cent of the population in 225 poor districts and seven hilly states should be covered under the Bill. “We plan to move a Cabinet note incorporating all the amendments in the first version of the Food Security Bill and then place it in Parliament for approval during the second half of the four-month Budget session,” said a senior food ministry official.

The government estimates that its annual food subsidy will rise by Rs 20,000 crore from the 2012-13 Budget Estimates of Rs 75,000 crore once the Bill is implemented. But economists have said the subsidy could rise to over Rs 120,000 crore because of higher coverage and reduction in price of grains sold through ration shops. India’s annual foodgrains requirement, after the Bill is implemented, is expected to remain intact at 55-60 million tonnes.

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First Published: Thu, February 28 2013. 00:30 IST