PM reaffirms commitment to Food Security Bill

NFSB was part of Cong poll manifesto in 2009

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday reaffirmed the United Progressive Alliance government’s commitment on the National Food Security Bill — a proposed legislation the ruling Congress is keen to rely on to brighten its prospects in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

“The National Food Security Bill is a very important legislation for the government. The UPA is committed to make this law after considering all opinions,” Singh told journalists after Parliament was adjourned. His remarks came amid speculation that the government might opt to get an ordinance promulgated to turn the NFSB into a law.

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 5 kg of highly subsidised food-grains to each beneficiary every month.

The Congress-led government, which seeks to reap the political dividend of the proposed legislation was keen to get it passed by Parliament during the Budget Session itself. The BJP, however, opposed the move insisting on resignation of Law Minister Ashwani Kumar and Railway Minister Pawan Bansal over coal-gate and railway recruitment scam.

Though an ordinance can be promulgated to meet the objectives of the NFSB, the government is yet to take a call on whether it should go for it or wait till the monsoon session of Parliament.

Food Minister K V Thomas told journalists that the government would “look into various angles” before taking a call. “I am neither ruling in, nor ruling out (the possibility of an ordinance). I have not thought of that. I have to study all these things. There are so many options,” he said.

Sources in the Ministry of Food and Consumer Affairs said that the government was a bit hesitant as it would have to get the ordinance cleared by Parliament within six months after its promulgation. If the government cannot replace an ordinance with an Act, then the beneficiaries would again lose the legal rights given to them, sources said.

A section within the Congress, however, is of the view that an ordinance to meet the NFSB’s objectives should be promulgated forthwith and efforts should be made to get parliamentary clearance during the monsoon session. Some leaders in the ruling party argued that the BJP and rest of the opposition would find it politically difficult to block such a Bill and take away from people the benefits legally guaranteed to them.

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