RS okays Food Security Bill

RS okays Food Security Bill

RS okays Food Security Bill

The UPA government’s ambitious scheme to legally guarantee subsidised foodgrain to 67 per cent of the country’s population got closer to reality as the Rajya Sabha on Monday passed the National Food Security Bill.

The ambitious bill, seen as a game-changer by the government and expected to benefit 82 crore people, cleared parliamentary process after much delay and uncertainty. It now needs the President’s assent to become law. The bill was passed by the Lok Sabha last week.

The proposed legislation was approved by the Rajya Sabha by a voice vote after a discussion.

A statutory resolution was taken to disapprove the ordinance promulgated on July 5. All amendments moved by opposition parties were rejected.

Calling the bill a political gimmick, most parties criticised the government for promulgating the ordinance. While most of the parties supported the bill, the Shiva Sena and the AIADMK opposed it.

The state governments will have one year to implement the scheme which gives the nation’s two-thirds population the right to 5 kg foodgrain every month. All eligible families will get rice at Rs 3 per kg, wheat at Rs 2 and course cereals at Re 1.

India will now join a select league of nations which guarantee foodgrain to a majority of its population. At Rs 1.3 lakh crore, the food security programme will be the largest in the world. It will require 62 million tonnes of foodgrain.

Wrapping up the debate, Food Minister K V Thomas said though the scheme “is not 100 per cent perfect,” it was the “first step” towards universalisation of the public distribution system.

He allayed apprehensions that the measure would hurt federalism. He said the Centre would bear most of the financial burden. “The Centre and the states will have to work hand-in-hand,” he said.

The food bill as well as the land acquisition bill are seen as game-changers by the Congress ahead of the Lok Sabha elections, scheduled for May next year.