The National Food Security Bill (NFSB), entailing an additional subsidy of Rs. 23,000 crore a year, will be introduced in the coming budget session of Parliament, Attorney-General G.E. Vahanvati informed the Supreme Court on Friday.
“However, the exact amount of subsidy may vary depending upon the final shape of the Bill as approved by Parliament,” he told a Bench of Justices T.S. Thakur and Ibrahim Kalifulla
The Bill would also entail additional expenditure on certain other provisions but it cannot be exactly quantified at this stage. “However, appropriation of Parliament in such cases will be required.”
Justice Thakur told Mr. Vahanvati that as per the Justice Wadhwa Committee recommendations private fair price shops should be replaced with government shops to be run by corporations or cooperatives or mahila mandals.
“We are concerned with the effectiveness of the public distribution system. Can you [Centre] bring in some administrative mechanism till such time the Bill becomes law. It can be done without incurring additional expenditure. You can start working on it,” the judge said.
The AG said he would consult the Agriculture Ministry and inform the court at the next hearing on March 4.
In its affidavit, the Centre said that under the NFSB it was proposed to introduce a monthly per person entitlement of foodgrains, instead of allocation on a family basis. The latest population figures would be considered for making the allocation. The NFSB would also take care of the extent of population to be covered for allocation of subsidised foodgrains, guidelines for their allocation, etc.
The Centre said it was in agreement with the recommendations that a civil supplies corporation be set up in each State/Union territory, if it was not already done, and that that delivery of foodgrains on the doorstep of fair price shops by the States or their agencies was an important measure for checking leakages/diversion. It also agreed that bogus ration cards should be weeded out and action had to be taken by the States/UTs.