The UPA government has decided to bring amendments to the National Food Security Bill to help secure more support for the “game changer” legislation in Parliament.
The government may move some of the changes proposed by other political parties, such as the DMK, the BJP and the Left parties, as official amendments.
At a meeting of senior Cabinet ministers convened by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday, it was decided that the government will move amendments such as on cash transfers in lieu of foodgrains, protection of the present grains allocation to States, consultation with States on framing rules and on the provision on ready-to-eat meals and fortified foods.
Minister of State for Food K.V. Thomas later called on Samajwadi Party Chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and sought his backing for the legislation. The SP, which provides crucial outside support to the UPA, has also moved amendments seeking a free and near-universal PDS. Sources said the Congress has issued a whip for its members to be present in the House on Tuesday when the Bill comes up for passage.
“The government is willing to bring amendments to the Food Security Bill to ensure wider support in Parliament,” Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath told journalists as he emerged from the PM’s meeting in Parliament House.
The Prime Minister held consultations with senior leaders including Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, Defence Minister A.K. Antony, Mr. Kamal Nath, Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh, Human Resources Development Minister M.M. Pallam Raju and Women and Child Development Minister Krishna Tirath.
The Food Ministry will take the approval of the Law Ministry and complete the formalities with the Lok Sabha Speaker’s office to be able to move the official amendments on Tuesday, the 69th birth anniversary of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
On the occasion, Congress president Sonia Gandhi is expected to inaugurate the programme in Delhi. Haryana will also launch the scheme on Monday.
“This Bill should have no politics. We are looking to see if some amendments moved by political parties are workable. If the Law Ministry is able to clear them we will move them as official amendments,” he said.
Asked specifically if the amendments shall be moved on Tuesday, the Minister said, “We will move amendments to the extent we can accept them.’’
There seems to be no re-think, however, on demands that have additional subsidy such as a universal Public Distribution System, raising the individual entitlement of grains to 7 kg per month from 5 kg, inclusion of pulses and cooking oil as an entitlement in the PDS basket and removing caps on percentage of eligible beneficiaries.
Various political parties have moved more than 200 amendments to the Bill.
Besides the food bill amendments, the Prime Minister also discussed with his colleagues the issue of smooth functioning of the Lok Sabha in view of four TDP members stalling the proceedings of the House against the proposal to form Telangana.
Mr. Kamal Nath said “that has been left to the Speaker, who is likely to hold a meeting with them.”
Sources said one of the options before the speaker is to name the four TDP members, which will bar them from being in the house for the day.