67% of population may get wheat, rice at Rs 2/kg and Rs 3/kg

67% of population may get wheat, rice at Rs 2/kg and Rs 3/kg New Delhi: Sixty-seven per cent of country's 1.2 billion populations, irrespective of their being below or above poverty line, may become eligible for 5 kg of wheat and rice at Rs 3 and Rs 2, respectively as the government is thinking of making some changes in this regard in Food Bill.

Under the Food Security Bill, which is at present being vetted by the Parliamentary Standing Committee, the government has proposed to give subsidised foodgrains to beneficiaries grouped into 'priority and general households' at different rates and different quantities.

However, with socio-economic caste census yet to be completed, the government feels that it is not possible to identify the beneficiaries in these two groups.

For early implementation of the food law, it is thinking to give a fixed quantity of wheat and rice at uniform rate to 67 per cent of population and exclude the 33 per cent people by using some criteria.

Sources said the government wants to test the effectiveness of the food security law before in the next general elections in 2014.

Under the Food bill, the government has proposed to provide 7kg of rice and wheat at Rs 3 per kg and Rs 2 per kg, respectively, to priority households. A general household member would get at least 3kg of wheat and rice at price not less the 50 per cent of the minimum support price.

Sources said that about 33 per cent of the country's population, who can afford to buy food grains at market price will be kept out of the intended list of beneficiaries through the introduction of the exclusion criteria in the Bill.

The rest 67 per cent of the population would be made eligible for subsidised foodgrains as per individual basis at 5kg of rice and wheat at Rs 3 per kg and Rs 2 per kg, each, sources said.

However, an household of Antodaya Anna Yojana category would continue to get 7kg foodgrains, they said.

Sources further said that the changes in the Bill would cost the government Rs 1,12,000 crore, about Rs 4,000 crore higher than what was estimated under the original bill.

The foodgrains requirement would be 61.55 million tonnes, instead of 69 million tonnes.

The socio-economic caste census (SECC), which would help in identifying beneficiaries for various social welfare programmes, would take some more time to complete, they added.

The government's new line of thinking is close to the suggestion of John Dreze, economist and former member of National Advisory Council (NAC) who advocated universalised public distribution system (PDS).

PTI