Right to Food Campaign meets Sonia, apprises her of shortcomings in the ordinance

Amid the Samajwadi Party’s ongoing face-off with the Congress over the suspension of IAS officer Durga Shakti Nagpal, the Uttar Pradesh ruling party may stage a walkout when the Food Security Bill is put to vote in the Lok Sabha. The party, which extends outside support to the UPA, has 22 members in the lower House.

The SP plans to move four amendments after the proposed Bill comes up for discussion and passage. “If our amendments are not accepted, we will walk out in protest,” a party source told The Hindu here on Tuesday.

The SP wants free distribution of food grains to Antyodaya Anna Yojna beneficiaries (poorest of the poor), coverage of the State’s entire Below Poverty Line population under the Bill, hundred-per-cent guarantee on procurement of food grains from the U.P. farmers at the minimum support price and “no Central interference” in the State’s public distribution system.

Even even as the UPA government braces itself for the voting in Parliament on the National Food Security Ordinance and the proposed Bill, members of the Right to Food Campaign (RTFC) on Tuesday met Congress president Sonia Gandhi in the Parliament House and apprised her of the shortcomings in the proposed legislation.

They drew Ms. Gandhi’s attention to the provision that allows private contractors and commercial interests to supply food under the ICDS, the requirement of adherence to the two-child norm, the provision for cash transfers in lieu of food grains and the exclusion of destitute people, single women, migrants and the elderly.

Besides the SP, other major Opposition parties including the Bharatiya Janata Party, Communist Party of India (Marxist), CPI, Trinamool Congress and the Biju Janata Dal too are dissatisfied with the provisions of the Bill and will press their amendments.

The BJP wants the National Food Bill to be presented on the lines of the Chhattisgarh Food Security Bill, which provides for coverage of up to 90 per cent of the population with food grains and certain free quantities of nutritious gram (channa).

The CPI and CPI (M) are pressing for universal entitlements. The CPI (M) wants the two-child norm clause to be deleted with regard to benefits for pregnant and lactating women.

The RTFC — a conglomeration of several civil society groups — has sought universal public distribution system as well as protection of the central issue price of rice (Rs. 3 per kg), wheat (Rs. 2 per kg) and coarse cereals (Re. 1 per kg) price protection for at least a decade and not just three years as proposed.

The Bill says the prices could be revised and set up to the minimum support price for the said commodities.

Protest today

The campaign has organised a demonstration here on Wednesday to press their amendments to the Bill.

“The National Food Security Ordinance is extremely inadequate. It makes a mockery of food security. It provides extremely limited food entitlements, is piecemeal and nowhere close to providing food security. This needs to be amended,” the RTFC said in its letter, addressed to all political parties.

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