Bill must take into account their respective socio-economic conditions

While the Centre has promised a re-look at the proposed National Food Security Bill in the light of the suggestions made by State Food Ministers at a conference here on Wednesday, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh has written to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for a fair treatment of States under the proposed Bill taking into account their poverty levels.

His letter is virtually in line with earlier letters written to the Prime Minister by Bihar and Uttar Pradesh Chief Ministers Nitish Kumar and Akhilesh Yadav who also sought a fair deal in the coverage of their poor populations under the public distribution system with adequate supply of foodgrains at subsidised rates.

In his letter Dr.Raman Singh said there should not be a cap on the number of beneficiaries. Instead the government should implement a verifiable “exclusion” criteria, in consultation with the States. “This would be a fair treatment of different States under the Bill taking into account their respective socio-economic conditions,” he said.

He suggested that the legal entitlements should be on per household basis rather than per capita, as has been proposed in the government Bill as well as by the Parliamentary Standing Committee.

The quantum of entitlement of rice or wheat should be fixed at 35 kg per household and not at 5 kg per person as recommended by the Parliamentary panel, he said.

Earlier in their letters Mr. Nitish Kumar and Mr. Yadav asked the Prime Minister to take into account the poverty levels in their respective States. Bihar has consistently been saying that its poverty numbers are higher then the cap imposed by the Centre on the below poverty line beneficiaries.

Mr. Yadav also objected to the exclusion of 33 per cent population from the Targetted Public Distribution System in each State and said the uniform “exclusion” was extremely unfair to poor States including U.P. The Parliamentary panel suggested coverage of 67 per cent population under the proposed Bill for legal entitlements to subsidised foodgrains.

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