Draft of proposed Bill to be vetted by an empowered group of Ministers
: Union Minister of State for Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution K.V. Thomas said here on Saturday that the Centre hoped to bring 75 per cent of the rural population and 50 per cent of the urban population in the country under the coverage of a comprehensive food security programme by 2012.
Addressing a meet-the-press organised by the Kerala Journalists' Trust, Prof. Thomas said the draft of the proposed Food Security Bill under which this programme would be implemented was already ready.
The draft would be vetted by an empowered group of Ministers and then placed in the Cabinet and introduced in Parliament. It would be a landmark legislation that would make food security the right of all citizens of the country.
Prof. Thomas said nutritious food for all children, irrespective of the economic category to which they belonged, too would be recognised as a solemn responsibility of the government in the proposed Bill. From the stage they were in the mother's womb to the age of 14, the children should have access to nutritious food. So, all pregnant mothers too would be covered by anti-malnutrition component of the programme.
He said the programme would be implemented in a transparent manner involving local bodies (in all stages of the programme, including selection of beneficiaries). The assessment was that subsidised supply of food grains would go up from the present level of 61 million tonnes to 71 million tonnes a year following the introduction of the programme. And the annual fund allocation for food security would increase from the present level of Rs.83,000 crore to more than Rs.1 lakh crore. He said the Centre was also working on the issue of putting in place the necessary mechanisms to reduce wastage of food materials.
Wastage had been identified as a major problem. It could be addressed only by attending to issues right from the pre-harvest stage to the post-harvest stage and even at the stage of actual consumption, Prof. Thomas said.