Montek for 35kg foodgrains every month to poor
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Last Updated: Tuesday, April 06, 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) 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."


First Published: Tuesday, April 06, 2010, 22:11

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