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Govt may give both BPL & APL families legal right to food

The government is likely to give a legal right to food to both priority and general categories of the population under the proposed National Food Security Act, as suggested by the Sonia Gandhi-led NAC.

Updated: May 25, 2011, 16:37 PM IST

New Delhi: The government is likely to give
a legal right to food to both priority and general categories
of the population under the proposed National Food Security
Act, as suggested by the Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory
Council (NAC).

There were differences between the NAC and the Rangarajan
Committee on giving a legal right to food to general category,
or above poverty line (APL) families.

While the NAC had suggested giving a legal cover to both
the priority (below poverty line, or BPL) and general
categories, the Rangarajan Committee was not in favour of
giving such a right to the `general` population due to supply
constraints.

"There is no difference of opinion for priority category.
The differences are on general category. NAC is saying give
legal entitlement, while the Rangarajan committee is saying no
legal entitlement for the general category.

"Now the view of the UPA government is that everybody
should be entitled," Food and Consumer Affairs Minister K V
Thomas said in an interview.

Thomas noted that the draft bill of the proposed Food
Security Act is ready and is likely to be placed this week
before the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) for approval.

"The draft Bill is ready now. I don`t say it is in line
with NAC or not. But it is in line with what is in the mind of
Madam Sonia Gandhi," he said.

"The principle of Sonia Gandhi is that every citizen of
the country should get legal cover toward a certain quantity
of nutritious food, not simply foodgrains," he shared.

Thomas said the additional foodgrains requirement for
broad coverage of the priority and general category could be
met by enhancing procurement from the current level.

"Government is currently procuring about 30 per cent of
the total wheat and rice production. We can increase it to 35
per cent to meet the demand under the proposed law," he said.

The country is estimated to have harvested nearly 180
million tonnes of wheat and rice in 2010-11.

Asked if the ministry has decided on the quantity and
price of foodgrains under the proposed law, Thomas said: "The
draft bill has a general framework. The nitty gritty would
come under rules."

In 2009, the government had announced that it will come
up with a Food Security legislation. Recently, Prime Minister
Manhoman Singh had stated that the government intends to bring
the proposed Bill in the coming session of Parliament.

Presently, the government provides 35 kg of fodgrains per
month to 6.52 crore BPL families and at least 15 kg of
foodgrains to 11.5 crore APL families.

PTI