Let states decide beneficiaries: House panel on food Bill

The Indian Express, January 17, 2012

The parliamentary panel reviewing the National Food Security Bill, 2011, is understood have recommended that states should be allowed to prescribe guidelines for identification of ‘priority’ and ‘general’ households for subsidised foodgrains.

The panel chaired by Lok Sabha MP Vilas Muttemwar has also asked the government to devise a clearly defined criteria in consultation with the states to identify those outside the ambit of the scheme, seeking to expand the scope of existing public distribution system.

Sources told FE that to deal with the rising food subsidy bill, the committee is likely to suggest reducing foodgrain entitlements under the proposed legislation from 7 kg per person a month to 5 kg per person a month.

While the earlier version of the Bill had envisaged grains to be supplied at R3 a kg for rice and wheat at R 2 a kg for BPL households and 50% of minimum support price (MSP) for Above Poverty Line (APL) families, the panel’s suggestion for scrapping of categories would result in a single uniform BPL price for people covered under the food law.

The panel is reportedly asked for the inclusion of pulses, oils and millets in addition to grains under PDS, which is expected deal with the problems of ‘malnutrition’.

The Bill, which was tabled in Parliament in December 2011 and was subsequently referred to the standing committee, had proposed 7 kg per person a month for priority (BPL) households and 3 kg per person a month for general households.

While the government had budgeted R74, 551 crore as food subsidy during 2012-13, the actual subsidy is all set to cross R1 lakh crore because of huge procurement drive by the Food Corporation of India (FCI).

With the introduction of the food Bill, the subsidy could cross R1.5 lakh crore.

The food Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha by food minister KV Thomas in December 2011, which was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee chaired by Muttemwar for approval.

Subsequently, the panel was reconstituted in October last year as earlier panel?s term got lapsed.

After the panel report is submitted to the Lok Sabha speaker, the food ministry will examine the proposed legislation before finalizing a draft Bill for the cabinet approval.?We propose to introduce the Bill in the forthcoming Budget season of Parliament,? Thomas said.

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