Jaipur: What will the new Food Security Bill do for the poor? Not much if activists are to be believed.
The bill aims to reach out to 75% of the rural population, especially the poor and about 50% of the urban population. But in most states, this will only mean an expansion of about 12 to 13% of the population, activists claim.
So who will be the extra few to join the food security ambit? Not a huge number, as the noise around the bill suggests, activists say.
The proposed entitlement of five-kg food grain per person in each ration card could mean that some families who were already getting 25 kilos under the Below Poverty Line scheme or 35 kilos under the 'Antodaya' scheme would actually find their food grains going down rather than up.
According to calculations, five kg of food grain per person per month is just about 150 gms per day, less than a kid gets in one mid-day meal.
The Supreme Court has laid down guidelines that each poor family should get a minimum of 35 kg of food grain per month. The Indian Council of Medical Research, the nodal body for health in the country, suggested that a family of four needs at least 50 kg of food grain per month.
Activists also argue that food security focuses totally on food grain. There is no mention of pulses and oil otherwise so important for nutrition, which the food security bill also promises to achieve.
Kavita Srivastav, activist, says, "There is nothing like nutritional security. They don't talk of dal and cooking oil. How can there be food security without these being provided cheaply. We know how dal has totally disappeared from the food plate of most families."
The bill, meanwhile, is scheduled for discussion in Lok Sabha today, with Congress president Sonia Gandhi, the chief architect of the scheme, expected to make a rare speech in the House.