Cabinet to take up revised food Bill today

Written by Sandip Das | New Delhi | Updated: Mar 19 2013, 02:26am hrs
The revised national food security Bill will be taken up by the Cabinet in a special meeting on Monday. Under the Bill, the subsidised price of the foodgrains to the defined sections of beneficiaries would be fixed for three years, rather than one year as proposed initially.

Despite a parliamentary panel opposing it, the Bill would seek to continue with the policy of providing highly subsidised foodgrains to poorest of the poor BPL families under the Antyodaya Anna Yojna (AAY). The revised food security Bill, which the government is aiming to introduce in the current season of Parliament, has a provision where lactating mothers belonging to poor families would be entitled R6,000 a month for six months irrespective of the number of children under the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS). The parliamentary committee, chaired by Vilasrao Muttemwar, had suggested the proposed benefits to only two children per mother.

The revised Bill has two categories of population included and excluded -- under which 82 crore people in urban and rural areas would get rice, wheat and millet at Rs 3, Rs 2 and Rs 1 a kg, respectively. The proposed legislation does away with the 'priority' and 'general' categories included in the food Bill presented in the Lok Sabha in December, 2011.

Food minister KV Thomas told FE that his ministry has revised the food Bill and now proposes to give legal right to over 5 kg of foodgrains at R1-3 a kg per month per person to about 70% of the population, as suggested by a parliamentary panel. The parliamentary panel on the other hand had recommended coverage of 75% of rural and 50% of urban population with uniform entitlement.

The BPL families under the AAY category would continue to get 35 kg of foodgrains monthly per family, with rice and wheat at R3 and R2 a kg. The panel suggested discontinuance of the subsidised foodgrain scheme to AAY families, who falls in poorest of poor category.

"We have not agreed to withdrawing entitlements to AAY families as suggested by the parliamentary panel," Thomas said.

On the issue of the expected rise in food subsidy in case the Bill is implemented, Thomas said his ministry has drafted a revised bill after holding series of consultations with various concerned ministries, including finance

Finance minister P Chidambaram has made a provision of R10,000 crore for the implementation of the food Bill next fiscal and the government is confident of meeting the cost of running such a big social sector legislation.

Chidambaram has budgeted R90,000 crore as food subsidy for 2013-14, which includes R10,000 crore for incremental cost in case of implementation of food security legislation. The food subsidy is expected to rise to R1.2 crore annually after the implementation of proposed legislation.

At present, the government supplies 35 kg rice and wheat every month at subsidised rates to 6.52 crore BPL families under the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS).More than 32 crore population is covered under TPDS. Another 8 crore families under the APL category get subsidised grains.