Food Bill: Provide 5kg of foodgrains at cheap rates to 67% of population, says Parliamentary panel
New Delhi: A Parliamentary Committee on Thursday suggested monthly legal entitlement to 5 kg of foodgrains per person at highly subsidised rates to 67 per cent of country`s population under the UPA government`s ambitious Food Security Bill.
Submitting its report to Lok Sabha speaker Meira Kumar, the panel said, "The beneficiaries should get rice, wheat and coarse grains at Rs 3, 2 and 1 per kg, respectively."
"We have suggested that there should be single category of beneficiary with uniform entitlement of 5 kg per person per month," Chairman of the Standing Committee on Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution Vilas Muttemwar told reporters here.
The House panel`s suggestion is in contrast to provisions in government`s Food Bill, which classify beneficiaries into two categories -- priority households and general households.
The Bill was introduced in Lok Sabha in December 2011.
"The report was adopted unanimously with one dissent note from CPI (M) member TN Seema," he added.
The panel agreed to the Bill`s provision to cover 75 per cent of the rural population and 50 per cent of the urban people, Muttemwar said.
Under the Food Bill, a pet project of UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, the government has proposed that priority households should get 7 kg of rice and wheat per month per person at Rs 3 and Rs 2 per kg, respectively.
The general households would get at least 3 kg at 50 per cent of the minimum support (MSP) price.
"We have asked the government to give additional 5 kg of foodgrains per month to women during pregnancy and till two years after child birth," Muttemwar said.
Asked about lowering the quantity from 7 kg to 5 kg, he said: "The Committee found that entitlement of 7 kg or 11 kg would not be feasible considering the current production and procurement trends."
At 5 kg per person per month, 48.8 million tonnes of foodgrains would be required for PDS and another 8 million tonnes for other social welfare schemes, he said, adding that this quantity could be managed.
The annual food subsidy requirement would also be lower at about Rs 1,12,000 crore, he said.
The committee also recommended that a simple and fair way of setting state-wise exclusion ratio should be prescribed in a transparent manner so as to retain the existing coverage of population, the report said.
"Instead of two categories of general households and priority households, there should be inclusion and exclusion," Muttemwar said, adding that the coverage under the proposed law should be reviewed after 10 years and rates after 5 years.
On cash transfer of food subsidy, the committee said that cash transfer in lieu of foodgrains entitlements at this juncture may not be desirable. It recommended that banking infrastructure and accessibility to banking facility are made available throughout India before introducing cash transfer.
Among other suggestions, the panel has asked the government to modernise PDS and computerise supply chain.
Stating that grain allocation of some states would fall, Muttemwar said the panel has recommended that allocation to the states should not be curtailed. The allocation over and above this food bill should be made through executive orders.
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