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Food Bill needs more debate to plug loopholes: CACP chief

Last Updated: Sunday, December 23, 2012 - 21:11

New Delhi: A discussion paper co-authored by CACP chief Ashok Gulati has exposed lacunae in the Food Bill and suggested further debate on long-term feasibility of the Congress' big-ticket social welfare programme.

It has also recommended the government to consider conditional cash transfer (CCT) rather than physical supply of subsidised food as CCTs have been found to be more efficient in achieving food and nutritional security globally.

The National Food Security Bill (NFSB), already introduced in the Lok Sabha, is currently being vetted by the Parliamentary Standing Committee and is expected to present its report by next session of Parliament.

The Bill aims to give legal right over subsidised foodgrains to 67 per cent of the country's population.

The Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) is a statutory body under the Agriculture Ministry which advises the government on price policy for major farm commodities.

Gulati, in his personal capacity, said in the discussion paper: "The Bill, in its present form, throws up major operational and financial challenges and would have enormous ramifications on the cereal economy/markets and, therefore, Indian agriculture as a whole."

The long-term feasibility of the envisaged strategy under NFSB needs to be carefully analysed and debated in the national interest," he said.

The authors said the discussion paper series by CACP was an attempt to encourage unbiased discussion on critical issues affecting farm sector and food security. However, they made it clear that the views belonged purely to the authors and did not reflect the views of the organisations they belonged to.

On CCT, the paper suggested having "enough flexibility" in the Bill to innovate and evolve into such a CCT scheme, using the globally acclaimed expertise of India in IT and Aadhaar, to connect to and pull those at the bottom of economic pyramid.

Under the CCT scheme implemented in most of countries, money is directly provided to the poor families after entering into a "social contract" with the beneficiaries. The cash is paid on the condition that the beneficiary should send the children to school regularly or bring them to health centres. The cash is generally paid to the female member of the family.

Emphasising that individual states should be left to devise their own systems of provision of food security, the paper suggested that states, which are surplus in terms of production of cereals, could move straightaway to cash transfers.

Cities with a population of 1 million or more which already have reasonable financial infrastructure and setting up of micro-ATMs, can also shift to cash transfers, it said, adding that states, which are grain deficit may continue with the physical handling of foodgrains.


First Published: Sunday, December 23, 2012 - 21:11
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