A special cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh which was met on Sunday, cleared the National Food Security Bill. The bill was cleared after a lot of prodding from the Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi.
The food security bill which aims to make available subsidized food grains to 62.5% of the country’s total population, brought to the Cabinet by food and public distribution minister K V Thomas, was approved in the special meeting convened without any delay.
The bill proposes a provision for each person of the priority household, similar to Below Poverty Line (BPL) families under current Public Distribution System (PDS), to be supplied with seven kg of rice, wheat and coarse grains per month at the rate of Rs3, Rs2 and Re1 per kg respectively.
The new subsidies introduced through the bill is estimated to cost an additional expense of Rs27, 663 crore, which will take the on the whole expense on food subsidy to taking the overall figure to about Rs95, 000 crore.
The Bill, which is considered as a brainchild of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, was part of the election manifesto of the Congress Party in 2009 general elections.
Since September 2009 the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM), headed by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, has been deliberating on the bill.
Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar has expressed his vehement criticism against the bill as it would put heavy financial burden on the ex-chequer and also the availability of food grain to meet the requirement under the proposed law has also been a source of concern.
The government would require to raise 61 million tonnes of food grain to provide food security as against 55 million tonnes required now under the PDS to fulfil the commitments of the proposed bill.
In addition to providing cheap food grains to the deprived, the Bill also offers minimum 3 kg of food grain per month per person under general household category at rate which is not higher than 50% of the Minimum Support Price.
Report by Radhalakshmi