Favours subsidised foodgrains only for poor

The C. Rangarajan Committee on the proposed food security bill favours legal entitlement of subsidised foodgrains to the poor (below the poverty line), but has rejected the National Advisory Council's recommendation that above the poverty line (APL) households be partially covered, saying it is not feasible at the current levels of grain production and procurement.

“The assured delivery of subsidised foodgrains be restricted to the really needy, and the rest can be covered through an executive order with varying quantums, depending upon the availability of foodgrains,” the committee said in its report, officially released on Thursday.

The NAC, headed by Congress president Sonia Gandhi, had recommended 75 per cent coverage of the population in two phases, with 90 per cent rural and 50 per cent urban population included.

The Rangarajan Committee, however, suggested that 46 per cent of the rural population and 28 per cent of the urban population be entitled to 35 kg of rice at Rs. 3 a kg or wheat at Rs. 2 a kg per household a month. The figures were arrived at by adding 10 per cent beneficiaries (to cover those on the margins) to the Tendulkar Committee's poverty estimates of 41.8 per cent of the rural poor and 25.7 per cent of the urban poor. The poverty figures matched the ones provided by the NAC.

“Going by the NAC proposal, the grain requirement would be 74 million tonnes in the final phase in 2014, while the total grain availability with the government in 2011-12 and 2013-14 is likely to be 56.35 million tonnes and 57.61 million tonnes respectively, based on the current production and procurement trends.”

“It will not be possible to implement the NAC-recommended food entitlements for either of the phases,” said the committee, set up by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to “examine” the NAC's recommendations.

The committee said the price of subsidised foodgrains for the poor (BPL) might be linked to inflation and indexed to the Consumer Price Index in the coming years, and the price at which wheat and rice was to be made available to the non-poor (APL) might be linked to the minimum support price (MSP).

It estimated the subsidy bill at Rs. 83,000 crore for the entitled groups at 100 per cent lifting. “Since the NAC recommendations create a legal obligation for the government, it is important to mandate enforceable entitlements, keeping in mind the availability of grain,” the report said.

More In: Today's Paper