Expedite socio-eco census to implement Food Bill

New Delhi: In order to enable implementation of the proposals in the National Food Security Bill at the earliest, Food Minister K V Thomas has asked both the Rural and the Urban Poverty Alleviation Ministries to expedite the socio-economic and caste census that will be used to identify beneficiaries of various schemes.

The Food Bill, which aims to provide cheaper foodgrains to 63.5 per cent of the nation`s population, has been referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Food.

"As the implementation of the National Food Security Bill is crucially linked to identification of households, the issue is likely to come up for examination before the Standing Committee any time. I would, therefore, request you to ensure expeditious completion of the survey (census)…," Thomas said in separate letters to the Rural as well as the Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation ministers.

He has asked for an updated status of Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC), 2011, and also requested the ministries concerned to complete the survey soon to facilitate the implementation of the proposed law.

While the Ministry of Rural Development is coordinating the survey to identify households in rural areas, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation is looking into identification of households in urban areas.

During the Winter Session of Parliament, Minister of State for Planning Ashwani Kumar had said in a written reply to Lok Sabha that "the SECC is expected to be completed by January 2012".

The SECC, which was initiated in June last year, has not made big progress in many of the states. The process has not even started in some states. However, the Rural Development ministry hopes to complete the process by June 2012. .

Meanwhile, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Food and Consumer Affairs, headed by Congress Lok Sabha member Vilas Muttemwar, met last week for the first time and discussed the nitty-gritty of the Food Bill.

The next meeting of the committee, at which the Food Ministry has been asked to brief the members on the proposed law, is scheduled for February 22.

The ambitious Food Bill, which is considered as a pet project of Congress President Sonia Gandhi, proposes to give legal entitlement to food to 75 per cent of the people in rural areas, including at least 46 per cent in the priority sections (which is the same as below poverty line families in the existing public distribution system).

Up to 50 per cent of people in urban centres will be covered under the proposed law, of which at least 28 per cent will be in the priority category.

Under this significant legislation, eligible people in the priority category would be entitled to 7 kg of foodgrains — comprising rice, wheat and coarse grains — per person per month.

Implementation of the scheme is expected to cost Rs 3.5 lakh crore and the subsidy bill is expected to be to the tune of Rs 95,000 crore.