As the Congress goes into a huddle to chalk out its strategy for the 2014 polls, a parliamentary panel on Thursday recommended a cut in grain entitlement in the National Food Security Bill (NFSB) — a proposed legislation that the ruling party is keen to cash in on in the next Lok Sabha elections.
In a report to Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, the Standing Committee on Food and Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution recommended that the monthly food-grain entitlement for each beneficiary be lowered from the 7 kilogram as proposed in the NFSB to 5 kilogram in order to ensure that the ambitious legislation could be implemented without being hindered by shortfall production and procurement of food-grain.
The parliamentary panel headed by Congress MP Vilas Muttemwar also proposed that the classification of the beneficiaries into priority and general households be done away with. It recommended that the Bill cover 75% population in rural areas and 50% in urban areas and all the beneficiaries be treated as a single category. The committee also said that the government should ensure that banking infrastructure and accessibility to banking facility are made available in all parts of the country including remote, rural and hilly tribal areas before introducing cash transfer in lieu of food subsidy.
The Congress had promised to enact the National Food Security Act in its manifesto for the 2009 Lok Sabha polls. The party had pledged to cover every ‘Below Poverty Line’ family with an entitlement of 25 kg of rice or wheat every month at the rate of Rs 3 per kg.
The National Advisory Council headed by Congress president Sonia Gandhi had been instrumental in conceptualising the proposed legislation. It had earlier suggested that the beneficiaries be classified into two categories — priority and general households.