New Delhi: A decision on the legal right of
the poor to get wheat or rice at Rs 3 per kg was deferred
today as Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar could not
attend the meeting of a panel of ministers on the Food
Security Bill on health grounds.
"We have deferred it (decision on Food Security Bill)
till Sharad Pawar comes back," Finance Minister Pranab
Mukherjee told reporters after the meeting of the Empowered
Group of Ministers (EGoM) on Food.
Pawar underwent surgery in Mumbai yesterday for a mouth
However, to fight rising food inflation, the EGoM decided
to extend open market operations for sale of wheat by another
three months till September 30.
"We are permitting open market sale scheme for wheat,
which was to be operated till June 30. We have extended it to
September 30 of this year," said Mukherjee, who heads the
Under the scheme, the government sells wheat to bulk
consumers and provides foodgrain to states for distribution in
the retail market below the procurement cost. So far, the
government has allocated 30 lakh tonnes under the scheme.
Driven by rising prices of essential items, food
inflation is hovering at around 17 per cent.
The EGoM, meanwhile, decided to allow the export of
36,000 tonnes of non-basmati rice to Maldives, despite a ban
on export of grains since April, 2008. The export of rice to
Maldives has been allowed on diplomatic grounds.
"There was ban on rice exports. We have removed that only
for Maldives and this has been done on the request of the
Ministry of External Affairs", said Mukherjee.
The EGoM, which cleared the draft Food Security Bill in
March, had to reconsider it after UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi
wanted improvements with regard to monthly food supply and the
number of beneficiaries.
The panel then asked the Planning Commission to provide
firm estimates on the number of people living below the
Talking to reporters, Planning Commission Deputy Chairman
Montek Singh Ahluwalia, who is also a member of the EGoM, said
the commission has accepted the numbers suggested by the
Tendulkar Committee report on poverty estimates.
"This (the report) has gone from us to the Prime
Minister`s Office (PMO). Hopefully we will be announcing that
very shortly," Ahluwalia said.
The number of BPL families will officially go up to 8.1
crore from 6.5 crore if the Tendulkar panel`s report is