Special cabinet may discuss key changes to Food bill on Monday

Special cabinet may discuss key changes to Food bill on Monday New Delhi: Racing against the time, the government will consider major amendments to the Food Security Bill in a special Cabinet meeting likely to be held on Monday next week.

"We are trying to bring revised Food Security Bill in the Cabinet on Monday (March 18). The note has been circulated," Food Minister K V Thomas said on the sidelines of an event.

Once the Cabinet clears the changes, the minister said that the amendment bill would be placed in Parliament before the current session goes into the recess on March 22.

Over 55 amendments have been proposed to the Food Security bill, the UPA government's ambitious social welfare programme, after taking into account the recommendation of the Parliamentary Standing Committee.

Major changes include: doing away with priority and general classifications of beneficiaries and provide uniform allocation of 5 kg foodgrains (per person) at fixed rates to 67-70 per cent of the country's population.

Protection to 2.43 crore poorest of poor families under the Antodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) by continuing supply of 35 kg foodgrains per month per family. That apart, nutritional support to pregnant women without limitation are among other changes proposed in the Bill.

In the original Bill, introduced in December 2011 in the Lok Sabha, the government had proposed giving 7 kg of wheat (Rs 2/kg) and rice (Rs 3/kg) per month per person to 'priority households', while at least 3 kg of foodgrain at half of the government fixed support price was proposed for the 'general' households.

On sugar decontrol, Thomas said that the proposal is before the Cabinet Secretariat and it may be listed for discussion in the forthcoming meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA).

The proposal is to remove two controls -- levy sugar obligation and release mechanism system as recommended by the Prime Minister-constituted Rangarajan Committee.

Under the levy sugar system, mills are required to sell 10 per cent of their output to the Centre at cheaper rates to run ration shops, costing Rs 3,000 crore to industry annually.

The proposal is that once this obligation is removed, the government would buy sugar from the open market and continue to sell at a subsidised price through ration shops.

PTI