India’s 68 per cent population may get legal right to subsidised food if the draft National Food Security bill prepared by the Food Ministry is approved by a panel of ministers at the forthcoming meeting.
After analysing the recommendations of the National Advisory Committee (NAC) and Rangarajan Committee,the Food Ministry has prepared a draft bill,likely to be placed before the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) on food next week.
The ministry has also proposed to provide subsidised food grain on ‘individual basis’ instead of the current practice of allocating 35 kg of wheat or rice to per family,according to sources.
“The draft bill of the Food Ministry seeks to provide a legal right on subsidised food on ‘individual basis’ to about 68 per cent of India’s population,” a source said.
The ministry’s proposal is lower than the Sonia Gandhi led NAC’s suggestion that 75 per cent of population should be covered. India’s population is over 1.2 billion.
Last week,Food Minister K V Thomas had said that the draft bill was ready and would cover both the priority and general category under the proposed law as suggested by NAC.
The Rangarajan Committee had recommended that legal cover should not be given to ‘general’ category due to constraints of foodgrains stocks.
Sources explained that a legal right to an “individual” family member would enlarge the scope of food security in the country.
In effect,it means that each individual will possess a ration card and will be entitled to a minimum 7 kg of foodgrains under the law as against the prevailing system,wherein,the head of the family has a ration card.
A priority household is likely to get entitlement over 35kg rice/wheat under the law ,while a general category may be for only 10-15 kg,which is lower than the NAC’s proposal of 20 kg,sources said.
The cost of subsidising foodgrain under the proposed law is expected to touch Rs 1,00,000 annually,as against the current Rs 80,000 crore,sources added. The government had promised in 2009 that it would ensure food security in the country by bringing a legislation.
At present,the government supplies 35 kg of rice/wheat to 6.52 crore Below Poverty Line families and at least 15 kg of foodgrains to 11.5 crore Above Poverty Line families.