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Updated: March 20, 2013 01:16 IST

Cabinet clears revised Food Bill

Gargi Parsai
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The government on Tuesday approved a bill to provide for 5 kg food grains per month per person at a subsidised price of Rs. 1-3 per kg. File photo
The Hindu The government on Tuesday approved a bill to provide for 5 kg food grains per month per person at a subsidised price of Rs. 1-3 per kg. File photo

The Union Cabinet on Tuesday cleared the National Food Security Bill that gives legal entitlement to 67 per cent population (including 75 per cent rural and 50 per cent urban) for subsidised grains under the Targeted Public Distribution System

The Union Cabinet on Tuesday cleared the National Food Security Bill that gives legal entitlement to 67 per cent population (including 75 per cent rural and 50 per cent urban) for subsidised grains under the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS).

A beneficiary will be entitled to 5 kg of rice, wheat or coarse cereals at Rs. 3, 2 and Re. 1 a kg a month and will be identified by the States based on parameters prescribed by the Union government.

The Cabinet gave its nod to the 71 amendments proposed by the Food Ministry, including the one that said the 2.43 crore Antyodaya Anna Yojna beneficiary households will continue to get their quota of 35 kg grains a month under the TPDS.

In its revised form, the Bill favours the “two-child norm” by denying maternal benefits to a pregnant woman beyond two live births. The Law Ministry quoted Supreme Court judgments and the National Population Policy of 2000 to justify the provision. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) had opposed the clause in the Standing Committee meeting and had given a dissent note on it.

The subsidised prices of grains may be revised after three years to the level of the minimum support price paid for procurement of grains, the Bill said.

Hyped as a flagship programme of the United Progressive Alliance government, law will be implemented in phases. “It will be implemented as and when the States get ready,” a Minister told The Hindu as he came out of the Cabinet meeting.

“We will try to bring the amendments to the Food Bill in Parliament before Friday,” Food Minister K.V. Thomas told journalists after the Cabinet meeting.

While the existing allocation of grains to the States shall be protected, the cost of transporting grains to ration shops shall not be passed on to consumers as was proposed earlier.

The additional burden on the food subsidy is estimated at about Rs. 23,000 crore at 2012-13 prices. The grain requirement is estimated at 61.23 million tonnes.

The Right to Food Campaign, a conglomeration of civil society groups that began its sit-in here seeking a universal food security law, flayed the revised bill as “unacceptable” as it has “diluted provision for community kitchens, destitute, vulnerable and the infirm and does not provide workable redress mechanisms.”

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