Food Security Bill likely to cover more beneficiaries

Food Security Bill likely to cover more beneficiaries

Though initially the Ministry wanted to limit the benefit to only 6.5 crore BPL families, now it plans to revise the draft bill by widening the list of beneficiaries. The newly reconstituted National Advisory Council headed by Congress president Sonia Gandhi is known to have put pressure for the revision of the bill.

It is learnt that Sonia Gandhi, who echoed the arguments of civil society activists, wanted the benefit of the scheme to reach the vulnerable sections of society who do not figure in the official BPL rolls.

“The draft bill, which was almost finalised by the Empowered Group of Minister (EGOM) headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee a couple of weeks ago, will be revamped to add more beneficiaries” sources in the Food Ministry told Deccan Herald.

If more number of families are added to the list of beneficiaries, the Centre will have to be prepared to bear the burden of huge food subsidy bill. In this case, the outlay for food subsidy bill is likely to go up by 40 per cent of the  Rs 55,586 crore earmarked in the 2010-11 budget. 

The EGOM, which will meet on Monday, will not only take up the issue of adding more beneficiaries, but also discuss supplying edible oil and pulses through the Public Distribution System in a bid to give  “nutritional” approach as advocated by activists.
The UPA II regime is under  attack from opposition parties for delaying the implementation of the Food Security Scheme which was promised by the Congress in its manifesto during the last Lok Sabha poll.

Alarm raised

Many non-Congress ruled states have already raised alarm saying that the scheme would hit the AAY (Antyodaya Anna Yojane) beneficiaries whose number is 2.5 crore.
Now, the AAY card holder  gets 35 kg wheat (at Rs 2 kg) or rice (at Rs 3) per month through the  public distribution system. The states have said that if the scheme is implemented, the AAY consumers will not only be getting 10 kg less foodgrain but will also have to pay Re 1 per kg more for wheat.

"In the light of this, the Centre is thinking of scrapping  the AAY scheme and give 35kg of foodgrain to all BPL card holder" said an official in the Ministry. But they would have a right over 25 kg of foodgrain under the new law, he added.

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