President Pratiba Patil today said the Centre is consulting state governments on the proposed National Food Security Act (NFSA), which will give the poor a legal entitlement to subsidised foodgrains.
“The states are being consulted as the success of the programme (NFSA) hinges critically on their commitment to reforms in the public distribution system (PDS),” Ms. Patil said in her address to Parliament to mark the beginning of the Budget Session.
The government has received important inputs on the proposed Act from the National Advisory Council (NAC), headed by UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, she said.
“I had announced earlier my government’s commitment to bring forward the NFSA that will entitle statutorily every family below the poverty line to foodgrains at highly subsidised prices. Important inputs in this regard have been received from the NAC,” the President said.
The UPA government had announced in 2009 that it will come out with a food security law under which a fixed quantity of rice or wheat will be provided at subsidised price each month to the poor.
Currently, a draft Food Bill is under preparation and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently said it will soon be tabled in Parliament.
The NAC has submitted its suggestions on the proposed Bill to the government and the same has been examined by the PM’s panel, headed by PMEAC Chairman C Rangarajan.
There is a difference of opinion over the number of beneficiaries to be covered under the law and the government is yet to take a final view on the issue.
While the NAC has suggested providing subsidised foodgrains to 75 per cent of the country’s population, including priority and general households, the Rangarajan Committee is of the view that it will only be feasible to cover ‘priority’ households, which it had identified as 46 per cent of the rural population and 28 per cent of urban India.
Pointing out that inflation has been “a problem in the past year”, Ms. Patil said the long—term solution lies in raising production and the productivity of agri—crops.
She listed “combating inflation” as one of the top priorities for the government in 2011—12.
The President highlighted that the government has provided huge incentives to farmers by hiking the minimum support price (MSP) for various agricultural products sharply, as well as farm credit flows.
Citing examples, Ms. Patil said the paddy MSP has been raised from Rs 550 per quintal to Rs 1,000 and that of wheat from Rs 630 per quintal to Rs 1,120 over a six—year period.
In addition, the government is providing fertilisers at a subsidised price.
“The Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana has pumped in investment of around Rs 35,000 crore in agriculture... Credit flows to agriculture have reached record levels,” she added.
Credit flows to the agriculture sector are expected to cross Rs 4,00,000 crore in the 2010—11 fiscal, as against the targeted Rs 3,75,000 crore.
The President also said that the government launched a new programme last year to achieve a Green Revolution in Eastern India.