The Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) on Food on Monday asked the Planning Commission to come up with poverty estimates (below poverty line population) which lie at the core of the formulation of the National Food Security Bill. The draft Bill, prepared by the Food Ministry and vetted by the Law Ministry, was discussed at the 90-minute meeting here.
The EGoM has sought additional information from the Food Ministry on known models of guaranteeing food security to the poor by law. There are about 22 countries that have enacted a similar law.
Emerging from the meeting, Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar said: “The issue of BPL list was discussed at length. The Planning Commission needs to give an opinion on BPL estimates. Taking that figure, the final draft of the Bill will be prepared.”
He said: “There is some additional information that the EGoM has sought and the Ministry will come up with it in three weeks. The EGoM will meet again after three weeks.”
The Group wanted to know how such a law was implemented in other countries.
Asked whether Congress president Sonia Gandhi had recently written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the Bill and if the communication was referred to the Ministry, Mr. Pawar said: “No. I am not aware of any such letter.”
To a question whether the EGoM wanted the minimum entitlement of 25 kg per family revised, he said, “President Pratibha Patil, in her address to Parliament, had talked about providing 25 kg wheat or rice at Rs. 3 a kg to every BPL household per month.”
Mr. Pawar said it was up to the Planning Commission to firm up the BPL list. “It is up to them whether they base it on the Tendulkar Committee report or the earlier N.C. Saxena panel or the Wadhwa committee.”
Sources indicated that issues of food grains production and procurement were also discussed. “The government is guaranteeing 25 kg to all BPL families. That does not prevent it from giving more if it so wishes,” the sources said.
The EGoM, headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, has as members Mr. Pawar, A.K. Antony, C.P. Joshi and Anand Sharma among others.