Bihar points lacunae in Food Bill



Patna: Bihar government on Wednesday charged the Centre of finalising Food Security Bill without consulting state governments and pointed several lacunae in the draft legislation which needs to be addressed before hand.

The Bill is expected to come up in Parliament in the coming budget session.

Bihar government's views on the National Food Security Bill, 2011 was expressed by Food minister Shyam Rajak today in a meeting on the bill presided over by Union Food minister K V Thomas in the national capital.

Emerging from the meeting, Rajak said that the bill will not yield desired results unless and until these short comings are addressed before hand, official sources said here.

He claimed that Bihar's views got support from states like Assam, Odhisa and Gujarat, among others at the meeting.

Rajak's comments came two days after Chief Minister Nitish Kumar wrote a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the Food bill.

"The negative aspect of the Food bill is that under it the Centre has the power to decide the plan and choose beneficiary families as per the process suggested by it... The state governments have no say except for bearing cost for implementation of the legislation," Rajak claimed.

The Central government is hurrying up with the bill without assessing the additional financial requirement and from where it would come, the Bihar Food minister said, adding, this would put extra extra financial burden on states.

The Bihar minister raised 24 points to highlight lacunae in the draft of the bill.

It sought setting up of an independent BPL Commission for identification of beneficiaries of the Food bill, considered as world's largest experiment in providing food security to poor.

There has been glaring discrepancy in the number of beneficiaries eligible for subsidised food between the Centre and the Bihar government.

While the Centre allocates foodgrains for distribution under PDS for 65 lakh people, the actual count of beneficiaries of the state government runs to around 1.70 crore. The state government is providing subsidised food to those left out from the Centre's dole from its own fund.

Rajak suggested that direct cash transfer would save huge cost incurred on improvement of Targetted Public Distribution System.

He pointed out that there should be an Independent authority to fix responsibility of the Centre and the state regarding implementation of the legislation.

The CM had raised these several issues on Food Bill in his letter to the PM. He had demanded that the Centre should bear the entire cost of the scheme and set up an independent BPL commission to identify genuine beneficiaries.

The Food Bill is a pet project of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and considered a 'game changer' for UPA in the 2014 general elections.

PTI