No debate on Food Bill in LS

Cong accuses BJP of trying to block "a revolutionary legislation"

No debate on Food Bill in LS

With parliamentary polls just about a year away, the beleaguered Congress-led UPA government on Monday sought to push through its potential redeemer National Food Security Bill (NFSB), notwithstanding a fierce protest by BJP-led Opposition parties.

Even as Opposition MPs shouted slogans protesting against the government’s move to push through the NFSB amid ruckus, the Congress and its ally Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) as well as the former UPA constituent, Trinamool Congress, took part in a brief debate over the Bill.

The House, however, was adjourned before the debate could conclude, as some BJP MPs started thumping on the side-desks of the presiding officer. The Bill is scheduled to come up for discussion in the House on Tuesday too.  

The NFSB – one of the promises the Congress had made in its poll-manifesto in 2009 – seeks to cover up to 75 per cent of rural and up to 50 per cent of urban population and legally guarantee five kilograms of highly subsidised food-grains to each beneficiary every month. The UPA government, which seeks to reap the political dividend of the proposed legislation, is keen to get it passed by Parliament before the hitherto stormy Budget session ends.

The BJP, however, maintained that it would oppose any move by the government to get the Bill passed by Parliament, unless Law Minister Ashwani Kumar and Railway Minister Pawan Bansal resign.

The Congress sought to turn the table on the BJP, accusing the principal Opposition party of trying to block “a revolutionary legislation” to end starvation and malnutrition.

“The way the Opposition MPs are creating ruckus at a time when the House is considering such a historic Bill just makes it clear that they do not have any sympathy for the starving and poor people of the country,” Congress MP, Sanjay Nirupam, said, initiating a brief discussion on the Bill, even as the BJP MPs trooped into the well of the House, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

The Shiromani Akali Dal MPs were in the well, demanding that a Special Investigation Team conduct a probe into 1984 anti-Sikh riot in Delhi. Samajwadi Party MPs were also in the well, demanding implementation of the Sachar committee’s recommendation for the welfare of the minority community.

Earlier, after the Lok Sabha saw three adjournments due to similar protests by the Opposition, Food Minister K V Thomas moved the NFSB for consideration and passing by the House at 3.00 pm. He said that the government’s annual food subsidy bill would go up by Rs 23800 crore when the NFSB would turn into an Act.

The National Advisory Council, headed by Sonia Gandhi, played a key role in drafting the Bill, which was introduced in the LS on December 22, 2011. The Government last week moved amendments to the Bill after it was studied by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution. Girija Vyas, who was in the chair, allowed the debate to continue for sometime, even as the CPI(M) and Trinamool MPs joined the protesting parliamentarians in the well.

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