Central government to redraft food security bill

Ajith Athrady, NEW DELHI, Jan 30, 2013, DHNS:

The UPA Government’s much-hyped cheap foodgrain scheme is likely to be delayed further with the Centre on Wednesday deciding to redraft the National Food Security Bill by incorporating suggestions made by the Parliament Standing Committee on Food and Consumer Affairs.

The decision was taken at a high level meeting convened at the Prime Minister’s Office to discuss the panel’s recommendations. It was also decided to withdraw the current bill from Parliament and table a new bill in the coming Budget Session.

Though Union Food and Consumer Affairs Minister K V Thomas claimed that the new bill would be passed in the Budget Session, officials are sceptical.

“Drafting a new bill means the entire exercise has to start afresh. Even the Food Ministry has to call a meeting of the states — either of food ministers or chief ministers — to consult on this issue again,” sources in the government told Deccan Herald.

No more review by panel

The new bill, which will be drafted by the Food and Consumer Affairs Ministry, will not be sent to the Standing Committee again as all its suggestions on the existing bill will be incorporated in the new one, sources added.

The new bill will, however, protect the Anna Antyodaya Yojane category beneficiaries, wherein the poorest among poor will get 35 kg of foodgrain in a month. Besides, there will be coverage up to 75 per cent in 250 backward districts, while it will be 90 per cent in 13 states including the northeastern region.

The total coverage under the scheme will remain 67 per cent in the country in the new bill and the cost to the exchequer will also be less than Rs 1.20 lakh crore a year, said an official from the ministry.

Instead of modifying the existing bill, the government has decided to draft a new bill to incorporate the many recommendations made by the Standing Committee on Food and Consumer Affairs headed by Congress MP Vilas Muttemwar, the official said.

Though the government had long ago announced to introduce the cheap foodgrain scheme through legislation, it is struggling to fine-tune it.

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