Govt says needs more time for Food Security Bill
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Last Updated: Tuesday, April 06, 2010, 09:54
Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: Not willing to take chances on UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi's pet project, government has said it needs more time to draft a foolproof food security bill giving the poor legal right for wheat or rice at Rs 3 a kg.

After a 90-minute meeting on the draft Food Security Bill, the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) asked the Planning Commission to give it the exact definition of the people Below Poverty Line (BPL), who would be entitled to a specified quantity of rice or wheat every month.

The EGoM, which met in the backdrop of food inflation ruling above 16 per cent, will discuss the draft bill again in three weeks.

When asked whether the government would raise the foodgrains quantity for the poor, Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar stuck to 25 kg per BPL family, as promised in the Congress manifesto and committed in President Pratibha Patil's address to Parliament on June 4, 2009.

"The President made a statement in Parliament. She had specifically mentioned about the quantity," Pawar told reporters after meeting of the EGoM, headed by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

The EGoM had cleared the draft bill on March 18 but the same was sent back to it amid speculation that Gandhi wanted key changes in the bill, including raising the quantity to 35 kg and widening the scope of beneficiaries.

When asked whether Gandhi has written any letter to the Prime Minister on the issue, Pawar said, "I don't know; at least I have not received it."

Earlier, the Congress sources said the party wants Gandhi-headed National Advisory Committee (NAC) to have its signature on the landmark bill with crucial inputs.

"It could have a stamp of the NAC as the body has been created for such issues only," a senior party leader said.

He said since the UPA Government would like the food bill to follow the success of the employment guarantee scheme, NREGA, it would make sure there are no loopholes in the bill.

Pawar said: "An important issue is about the exact definition of the BPL. Different people are discussing it differently."

Planning Commission has been asked to give the report on the number of BPL families that will come under the programme, he informed.

The minister said as many as 22 countries have similar food security laws. The government would study their systems as well.

At present, the government allocates 35 kg of rice or wheat for each of the 6.5 crore BPL families per month through the ration shops but this is not backed by law. Wheat is priced at Rs 4.15 per kg and rice at Rs 5.65 per kg.

"The eGoM will meet again in three weeks, when these reports will be submitted," Pawar said.

President Pratibha Patil, in her address to the joint session of parliament last year, had said the government would enact a National Food Security Act which aims to provide every BPL family 25 kg of wheat or rice per month at the rate of Rs.3 per kg.

The United Progressive Alliance-led Congress government had also promised it in its election manifesto.

The Congress Monday said there were no differences between the party and government on the national food security bill and both were working for the "most virtuous coverage" of the needy people.

Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi told reporters here that the bill was a revolutionary step and a legislation with pioneering scope. "Inputs from all sections should be welcomed," he said.

-Agencies inputs

First Published: Tuesday, April 06, 2010, 09:54

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