Cabinet defers decision on draft Food Security Bill

After senior Ministers raise questions

December 13, 2011 07:26 pm | Updated December 04, 2021 11:06 pm IST - New Delhi

The Union Cabinet on Tuesday deferred a decision on the draft National Food Security Bill that seeks to give legal entitlement to 46 per cent `priority' families of the 75 per cent rural population and 28 per cent `priority' households of the 50 per cent urban population to subsidised foodgrains. The Bill was deferred after senior Ministers raised questions.

“The discussion on the Food Bill remained inconclusive. We are trying our best to introduce the Bill in this session,'' Minister of State for Food and Public Distribution (Independent) K.V. Thomas told journalists after the Cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

However, sources said the Bill got stalled after questions were raised by senior Ministers including Sharad Pawar, Ghulam Nabi Azad and P. Chidambaram about the availability of foodgrains in a bad crop year, pilferage of PDS foodgrains and the financial implications of the proposed food subsidy.

The sources said the Prime Minister wanted to hear all the views before taking a decision. It is likely to be taken up in the next Cabinet meeting. Efforts are on to introduce the Bill in this session itself.

There are concerns about the identification of beneficiaries which is being done through a social and economic caste census in rural areas. No such exercise has even begun in urban areas. Moreover, there are issues about the poverty line criterion based on per capita spending per day, which has been challenged by civil society groups and frowned upon by the Supreme Court.

The Bill seeks to provide 7 kg of rice and wheat to per person per month to `priority' households at Rs. 3 and Rs. 2 per kg, respectively. Persons under the `general' households would get at least 3 kg at 50 per cent of the minimum support price.

When the law is implemented, the food subsidy bill is expected to rise to nearly Rs.1 lakh crore from the current Rs. 63,000 crore while foodgrains requirement would go up to 61 million tonnes from 55 million tonnes.

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