NAC to frame reply on Food Security Bill today

As the majority of the NAC members are not in a mood to agree to the PMO-appointed expert committee’s suggestions to dilute the provisions of the Food Security Bill, the panel is likely to recommend alternative ways to lessen the fiscal burden on the Union government to implement the landmark effort to address nutritional deficiency across the country.

The NAC is unlikely to accept the minimalist approach the Rangarajan Committee recommended for the government to adopt while framing the Food Security Bill, which was billed to be yet another historic initiative of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance after the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.

“We will discuss the report of the expert committee in our meeting on Friday and give our opinion on it. It seems that the report is based on a very conservative estimate of food grain availability,” NAC member N C Saxena told Deccan Herald.

The NAC, which was constituted to set the UPA government’s agenda in the social sector, had recommended that the Food Security Bill should ensure legal entitlement to subsidised food grains for at least 72% and 75% of the country’s population in two phases — first phase in 2011 and the final phase in 2014.

Dividing the beneficiaries in two categories, the NAC sought monthly entitlement of 35 kgs (equivalent to 7 kgs per person) of grains for priority households (46 per cent in rural areas and 28 per cent in urban areas) at a rate of Re 1 a kg for millets, Rs 2 for wheat and Rs 3 for rice and 20 kgs (equivalent to 4 kgs per person) for general households (44 per cent in rural areas and 22 per cent in urban areas) at a price not exceeding half of the existing Minimum Support Price for the grains.

But the expert panel headed by chief of the Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council C Rangarajan pointed out that it would not be possible to implement the NAC recommended food entitlements for either of the phases, as the total food grain availability with the government in 2011-12 and 2013-14 would be 56.35 million tonnes and 57.61 million tonnes respectively.

Though the Rangarajan Committee said the projection of food grain availability was based on current production and procurement trends, the NAC members did not find it convincing.

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