House panel likely to recommend scrapping of household categories

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SummaryThe Parliamentary Standing Committee examining the National Food Security Bill is considering to recommend to the government to do away with the categorisation of “general” and “priority”

The Parliamentary Standing Committee examining the National Food Security Bill is considering to recommend to the government to do away with the categorisation of “general” and “priority” (similar to the below poverty line) households in the legislation and provide uniform food guarantee to 75 per cent of the rural population and 50 per cent of the urban population.

Keeping in mind the fiscal implications, the committee is likely to suggest bringing down the food grain entitlements from 7 kg per person per month which is proposed in the Bill to five kg per person per month.

The Bill, which was tabled in Parliament in December 2011 and was referred to the standing committee, had proposed 7 kg per person per month for priority (BPL) households and 3 kg per person per month for general (above poverty line) households.

The Committee will meet on Friday and sources said it is likely to finalise its recommendations. This will pave for the consideration of the Bill in the forthcoming Budget session of Parliament.

The panel’s suggestions may mean that those households of five persons, which are covered under the legislation (75 per cent in rural and 50 per cent in urban areas), would be guaranteed 25 kg of food grains per month. While the Bill had proposed differential pricing — rice at Rs 3 a kg and wheat at Rs 2 a kg for BPL households and 50 per cent of minimum support price for APL families — the suggestion for scrapping of categories by the committee would mean that there would be a single uniform BPL price for all those covered under the legislation.

For this purpose, the committee is likely to recommend that the central government in consultation with the states come out with a criteria for “exclusion” of the rest of the population — 25 per cent in rural and 50 per cent in urban — instead of contentious earlier mechanism of inclusion of APL and BPL categories.

The parliamentary panel — headed by Congress’s Vilas Muttemwar — is also said to be in favour of the provision for introduction of direct cash transfer in lieu of food subsidy. The committee, sources said, is likely to recommend that the government work towards expanding banking infrastructure in remote and rural areas to enhance accessibility to banking services, crucial for the direct cash transfer, before introducing the scheme.

However, the committee is learnt to be

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