Montek for 35kg foodgrains every month to poor

Last Updated: Tuesday, April 6, 2010 - 22:11

New Delhi: Planning Commission chief Montek
Singh Ahluwalia on Tuesday said that the poor should get 35 kg of
foodgrains every month at Rs 3 per kg, as against the present
proposal of 25 kg, under the food security law.

"It is not unreasonable in my view to increase (quantity
of foodgrains under the proposed Food Security Act) from 25
kgs to 35 kgs... this will be more costly, but if we are doing
it for the poor, it is not unreasonable," he told reporters.

"The President`s address and party manifesto, both say 25 kg
foodgrains (at Rs 3 per kg). But under PDS, BPL households get
35 kgs," he added.

His remarks come a day after the Empowered Group of
Ministers (EGoM) had asked the Planning Commission to provide
exact definition of the Below Poverty Line (BPL) families who
would be entitled to a specified quantity of rice or wheat
every month.

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

Answering questions on the Tendulkar Committee report on
estimation of poverty, Ahluwalia said, "We are examining that
report. We will certainly prepare an estimate (of BPL
households) on the basis of Tendulkar Committee report."

The government, he added, will have to decide which data
to use for the providing food security to the needy.

"Do they (government) use poverty line given in the
existing survey of 2004-05 or new undergoing 2009-10 survey or
wait for new census (2011)," he said, noting that poverty
estimates of Tendulakar Committee are reasonable.

"He (Tendulkar committee) has suggested some increase in
the poverty line...actually for rural areas. I don`t think it
is unreasonable," he said.

According to the 2004-05 survey, there are 6.5 crore BPL
families, he said, adding the number will increase to little
over 8 crore after taking into account the methodology used by
the Tendulkar Committee.

"The problem is that the states have given BPL cards to
more than 11 crore households. But the (central) government
acknowledges 6.5 crore BPL household number which can go up to
eight crore after updating on the basis of Tendulkar
Committee", he pointed out

Comparing food security with rural employment guarantee
scheme he said, "In my view NREGA programme has done much
better job of protecting nutrition because if income
increases...they (BPL households) can get foodgrains from any
where."

Raising doubts about the delivery of PDS system, he said,
"The effectiveness of PDS is one issue which is going to be
discussed in the next meeting (EGOM)..how do you reform
PDS that is the issue."

About the additional financial burden he said, "It would
be more... we are a big economy and can absorb that."

When asked about the National Advisory Council
recommendation of providing nutrition based subsidy to poor,
he said, "Mrs (Sonia) Gandhi is chairperson of NAC...however
the composition of the NAC is not yet decided. I don`t have
any information about that."

PTI



First Published: Tuesday, April 6, 2010 - 22:11

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