Govt to distribute cheap food to check corruption

Govt to distribute cheap food to check corruption

“Without waiting for the Parliament nod to the bill, the government is planning to implement distribution of cheap foodgrain to poor,” sources in the government told Deccan Herald. It is obvious that the government’s hurry to implement the scheme is to boost its image which is getting a beating due to a series of scandals.

The government plans to supply wheat and rice at Rs 2 and Rs 3 per kg respectively to the existing BPL families through ration shops, sources said. However, “at present we will not give legal entitlement as it is possible only after getting Parliament nod to the bill,” sources added. Under the National Food Security bill, the Centre has proposed to give legal entitlement to subsidised foodgrain to both BPL and APL individuals.

The draft Food bill was recently cleared by the empowered group of ministers (EGoM) on food and has also been vetted by the Law Ministry. Though the government had earlier planned to introduce the bill in the current monsoon session, it was postponed to winter session as the Centre is yet to consult the states on the bill.

Despite the cheap foodgrain scheme announced by the Congress in its manifesto in the 2009 election, the government is facing criticism for not starting it even after two and a half years of its announcement. Senior Congress leaders are also pressuring the government to implement the scheme saying “let the act wait till it get ratified with Parliament but poor will get foodgrain first.”

“Instead of waiting further, the government wants to implement its part begin with covering the existing BPL families,” said a senior official in the Planning Commission.

When the government image is low, it is better to implement its flagship scheme to makeover its image.

Scheduled meet

Food Minister K V Thomas is scheduled to meet Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar on Tuesday to discuss this issue.

Now, the government provides 35 kg of wheat/rice in a month through ration shops to 6.52 crore families at Rs 4.15 per kg and Rs 5.65 per kg, respectively. “The draft bill aims at giving a legal right on subsidised foodgrain. That legal right can be given to beneficiaries later after the passage of the bill, but we can explore whether the foodgrain can be supplied now,” sources noted.

Sources said subsidised foodgrain may be given to more than the current 6.52 crore BPL families, taking into account the revised BPL list of the Planning Commission.

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