The process for preparing the draft of the much-awaited Food Security Bill accelerated on Saturday with the high-powered National Advisory Council (NAC) giving its recommendations for widening the scope for providing highly subsided food to a major chunk of the population.
Finalising its inputs for preparation of the draft of the Food Security Bill, the NAC, headed by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, recommended to the government to grant differential legal entitlement of food grains to nearly 800 million people through a reformed PDS network from the next financial year.
The NAC also decided to set aside the BPL criteria and suggested two broad categories – priority and general – eligible for legal food grain entitlement under the proposed food security law.
As per the recommendations, those under the “priority” category will have a monthly entitlement of Rs 35 kg food-grains at a subsidised price of Re 1 per kg for millets, Rs 2 per kg for wheat and Rs 3 per kg for rice.
The “general” category households will have a legal monthly entitlement of 20 kg of food-grains at a price not exceeding 50 per cent of the Minimum Support Price (MSP).
These recommendations were finalised at the sixth meeting of the NAC after a three-hour long discussion.
“We are obviating the need to look at the BPL data. Starting from the top we have decided to knock off 15 percent of the most affluent section from the rural areas and 60 per cent from the urban areas and including the rest under the food security net,” Narendra Jadhav, a member of the Council told newspersons after the NAC meeting.
He said that the NAC has recommended implementation of the first phase of food security law from the beginning of next financial year and plan for coverage of the entire country by 2014.
Jadhav said the first phase of the food security law may cost the exchequer an additional Rs 15,137 crore in food subsidies.
After the implementation of the final phase, the additional cost would be Rs 23,231 crore. At present the food subsidy bill of the government is in the range of Rs 55,000 crore and Rs 57,000 crore per year.
Other important components of the food security bill recommended by the NAC include legal entitlements for child and maternal nutrition, as well as for community kitchens and programmes for feeding the destitute and vulnerable groups.
The NAC has also recommended measures for revitalising agriculture, diversifying the commodities available under PDS, ensuring universal access to safe water and proper sanitation.
It has also suggested universalising primary healthcare, extending nutrition and health support to adolescent girls, strengthening the school health programme, the programme for Vitamin A, iodine and iron supplementation and the national programme for creches.
The recommendations of the NAC are likely to be considered by the Union Cabinet and then moved in the form of a National Food Security Bill in Parliament.