The Lok Sabha on Tuesday made an attempt to discuss the ambitious National Food Security Bill but the debate was disrupted by Telugu Desam Party (TDP) members who shouted slogans in the well.

The Lok Sabha on Tuesday made an attempt to discuss the ambitious National Food Security Bill but the debate was disrupted by Telugu Desam Party (TDP) members who shouted slogans in the well.

Food and Consumer Affairs Minister K.V. Thomas made several attempts to speak on the Bill but nothing could be heard in the din, even as Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj appealed to the TDP members to shift their protest outside the House in front of Mahatma Gandhi’s statue.

Mr. Thomas said the government, in a paradigm shift, had been converting schemes from being doles to rightful claims by the citizens.

“Right to Information, Education and Work have got their respectful status as operational rights.” The National Food Security law was also in that direction. As a legal right, its existence would not be changed by any government or, for that matter, due to any political instability, he said.

There was unanimity on the Bill, which could be seen from the Standing Committee’s recommendations and following a four year-old promise by the President on the floor of the House, the government promulgated an Ordinance last month, the Minister said.

“Locating the scheme as part of Article 21 provides the Act its due status; and provides the issue of hunger its due importance. With this Act, the government will fulfil its promise to make food, work, education and information operational fundamental rights for every citizen of this country.”

The Standing Committee reviewed the initial Food Security Bill from January 2012 to January 2013, when it submitted its report. It recommended the Bill, with only one member recording dissent. Most of the committee’s recommendations were accepted by the government, the Minister said.

After the enactment of the law, two-thirds of the population would become legally entitled to receive highly subsidised foodgrains.

Each entitled person will receive every month 5 kg of rice or wheat or coarse grain at Rs.3, Rs. 2 and Re. 1 a kg respectively. The poorest of the poor who had been getting 35 kg of foodgrains would continue to receive the same quantity per household.

The Bill aims at giving special focus to women and children. It will ensure that the oldest woman of the household above 18 years is considered its head for purposes of issue of ration cards. Pregnant women and lactating mothers will get a maternity benefit of Rs. 6,000 and pregnant women and children under 14 will get nutritious meals, with higher nutritional norms for malnourished children.

Grievance redress

As for redressing grievances that may arise in implementation of the social justice scheme, it has been planned to give an increased role for the Panchayati Raj Institutions and women’s self-help groups in programme-monitoring and social auditing. There will be a provision for internal grievance redress mechanism, including call centres and helplines; and District Grievance Redress Officers and the State Food Commission.

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