PM to fine-tune food bill

PM to fine-tune food bill

In the face of a threat by the Left parties to launch nationwide protest against delay in implementation of the National Food Security Bill (NFSB), Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has convened a high level meeting on July 18 to fine-tune the much delayed piece of legislation.

 

With the government busy giving final touches to the bill, Singh will discuss a host of related issues, including the burden to exchequer and the delivery mechanism, sources in the government told Deccan Herald.

Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, Food Minister K V Thomas and Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia will attend the meeting.

According to provisions of the modified bill, the Centre proposes to provide give subsidised foodgrain to 70 per cent of the population in the country. This is a major shift from its previous stand, wherein only 64 per cent of the population was proposed to be covered. The Centre also wants the States to decide on the target population.

However, the revised scheme which allocates 5 kg of foodgrain per person in a family (maximum 25 kg per family), at the rate of Rs 2 wheat, Rs 3 rice and Re 1 for coarse grain per month, will now cost around Rs 1.20 lakh crore per year to the exchequer against the earlier Rs 1.09 lakh crore. Sources in the government said that Finance Ministry and Planning Commission have given their nod to the new plan, despite the subsidy bill going up. The National Advisory Council (NAC) headed by UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi too has approved revised proposal.  

According to the amended proposal, 90 per cent population in 250 backward districts are entitled for subsidised foodgrain. The additional foodgrain entitlement to the North Eastern States will continue.

As per the revised proposal, the requirement of foodgrain will be 62 million tonne against 65 million tonne in the current targeted public distribution scheme. As the Centre has the stock of 84 million tonne of foodgrain, shortage of commodity would not arise, sources added.

The Food Security Bill, already tabled in the Parliament, is currently being vetted by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Food and Consumer Affairs. The Ministry will submit revised proposal seeking to provide subsidised foodgrain to 70 per cent of the population to the Standing Committee.

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