In a major shift in policy, the Centre now plans to confine food entitlement only to below poverty Line (BPL) households and completely exclude the existing category of the above poverty line families.

This is one of the significant changes proposed in the National Food Security Bill which is currently being considered by the Parliamentary Standing Committee.

Under the plan envisaged by the Centre, the task of identifying the BPL families will be left to the State governments. Several States have raised objections to putting a ceiling on the number of poor households.

The changes on food security policy will have far reaching implications especially when there is a growing demand for universalisation of the PDS. The government plans to supply rice at Rs. 3 per kg, wheat at Rs. 2 per kg and millets at Re. 1 kg only to the BPL. Each family will get 25 kg per month. The Bill provides for legal entitlement of subsidised foodgrains to 46 per cent ‘priority' (BPL) families of the 75 per cent rural population and 28 per cent `priority' households of the 50 per cent urban population.

Significantly, the government has decided to protect the provision of cheap foodgrains to Antyodaya Anna Yojna families, as well as to backward blocks and to the north-eastern States. In NE region, eligible families are provided 35 kg foodgrains per month under Targeted PDS.

As a consequence, the food subsidy component at 2011 price will go up to Rs. 1. 20 lakh crore and the foodgrains requirement would go up to over 60 million tonnes from the current average 55 million tonnes.

The Centre attempted to identify beneficiaries through the Social Economic and Caste Census and also to link the PDS to the Unique Identification Authority of India. However, the exercises were delayed.

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