The Union Cabinet has cleared the National Food Security Bill that aims
to provide subsidised food grain to over 62 per cent of the country's
population. All the proposals of the Cabinet note were cleared today
without any discussion when the Cabinet met at 7:30 pm. The bill will
now be introduced in Parliament in this winter session.
objective of the proposed law is "to provide for food and nutritional
security...by ensuring access to adequate quantity of quality food at
affordable prices, for people to live a life with dignity".
will be fulfilling our commitment to the people made in the manifesto in
2009 general elections and reiterated by President Pratibha Patil while
addressing the joint session of Parliament in June 2009," said Food
Minister KV Thomas. "It is an important Bill and I feel relieved that
the Cabinet has okayed it," he added.
The bill, which bears the
stamp of Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council, seeks to cover upto
75 per cent of the rural population and 50 per cent of urban
households. It seeks to grant the right to 7 kilograms food grains per
month per person, at Rs. 3 per kg for rice, Rs. 2 per kg for wheat and
Rs. 1 per kg for coarse grains to the priority beneficiaries.
General households would get at least three kilograms of food grains per person at 50 per cent of the minimum support price.
the present Public Distribution System (PDS), the government provides
35 kg of wheat and rice per month to 6.52 crore Below Poverty Line (BPL)
families at Rs. 4.15 and Rs. 5.65 per kg, respectively. About 11.5
crore APL (Above Poverty Line) families gets between 15 and 35 kg of
wheat and rice per month at Rs. 6.10 and Rs. 8.30/kg, respectively.
Food Security Bill also promises hot, mid-day meals for children up to
14 years of age and Rs 6,000 for all pregnant and lactating women - all
this will now be a legal entitlement. The bill provides for cash
reimbursement if the government fails to provide subsidised foodgrains
because of natural calamities such as drought and floods.
are, however, some unanswered questions - like the source of the nearly
Rs 1 lakh crore required to implement the bill. Last week, the decision
on the Bill was deferred due to paucity of time and because of concerns
raised by Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar over huge financial
implications. Once the law is implemented, the food subsidy bill is
expected to rise by Rs 27,663 crore to nearly Rs 95,000 crore, while
foodgrains requirement would go up to 61 million tonnes from 55 million
tonnes, as per the Cabinet proposal.
The proposed law has been
under consideration of an empowered group of ministers, headed by
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, since September 2009. Sonia Gandhi
led National Advisory Council (NAC) and an expert committee headed by
Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council (PMEAC) Chairman C Rangarajan
had also submitted their recommendations on the bill.
NAC had recommended legal entitlement to subsidised foodgrains to both
priority and general households, covering at least 75 per cent
population. However, the PMEAC had opined that this was not feasible.
they suggested that assured delivery of grains should be restricted to
the really needy households and the coverage of the rest should be
through an executive order. The draft was placed on the food ministry's
website for public comment in September. Based on the comments and
suggestions from all the stakeholders including the States, the draft
bill was revised and then placed before Cabinet.
This is a major initiative by the UPA government after Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
Congress Party had promised food law in its manifesto for 2009 election
and President had announced this in her address to the joint session of
Parliament in June 2009.
Some activists have slammed the bill
saying it was 'divisive' and demanding the universal implementation of
the public distribution system.
(With PTI Inputs