New Delhi: The Cabinet on Monday deferred by a day a decision on bringing major amendments to the Food Security Bill in the absence of key ministers including Finance Minister P Chidambaram.
The Cabinet deferred approval of the revised food bill, while the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs deferred the sugar decontrol proposal in absence of Finance Minister P Chidambaram, Defence Minister A K Antony and Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad.
The three ministers went to Chennai to meet DMK chief M Karunanidhi, who has threatened to pull out of UPA coalition on Sri Lankan Tamils issue.
"The food bill has been deferred by the Cabinet for tomorrow`s meeting," Food Minister K V Thomas told reporters after the meeting.
The amendments in the Bill have been suggested after taking into account the recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee.
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`. At least 3kg of grain at half of the government fixed support price was proposed for the `general` households.
According to sources, more than 55 amendments have been proposed to the Bill.
The major changes include doing away with priority and general classifications of beneficiaries and providing uniform allocation of 5 kg foodgrains (per person) at fixed rates to 67-70 per cent of the country`s population.
The revised bill seeks to protect 2.43 crore poorest of poor families under the Antodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) by continuing supply of 35 kg foodgrains per month per family.
On sugar decontrol, the food ministry has proposed doing away with regulated release mechanism and levy sugar system.
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.
The financial burden would be offset by either raising excise duty on sugar or tweaking export and import duties on the sweetener.