Pranab approves changes in Food Bill

New Delhi: Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee as the head of Empowered Group of Ministers on Food has approved key changes in the proposed National Food Security Bill and the revised draft would be placed before the Cabinet soon.

"The changes proposed in the Food Bill have been cleared. It will be soon placed before the Cabinet," Food Minister K V Thomas told PTI after a meeting with Mukherjee.

The Cabinet note is ready and will be circulated for inter-ministerial comments today, he added.
Thomas said Mukherjee has agreed to several key changes such as keeping an option open for supplying more than 3 kg of subsidised foodgrains to general households.

Mukherjee has also approved to the proposal to widen the reach of beneficiaries to include lactating women, destitute, aged people and nutritious food to children. "The cash-handout of Rs 1,000 per month for six months to lactating women would be extended to the entire country instead of 52 districts," he said.

In cases of general households` entitlement to subsidised foodgrains, the minister said the word `minimum` would be inserted in the draft so that the government can increase the allocation if production rises.

In the present form of the Bill, the Food Ministry has proposed that the government would supply 3 kg of rice and wheat per person per month falling under general households category at a price not exceeding 50 per cent of the minimum support price (MSP).

The draft National Food Security Bill seeks to provide a legal entitlement to subsidised foodgrains to 75 per cent of the country`s rural population and 50 per cent of urban India.

Thomas said that the Finance Ministry has agreed to remove the condition of extending benefits to general households only in states where the Public Distribution System (PDS) is modernised. "The present draft restricts benefits for general households in states having modernised PDS. Now, the benefit will be extended to all states," he said.

The changes to be made in the proposed Food Bill were discussed with Congress President and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, he added. The proposed bill would cost the government exchequer more than Rs 1,00,000 crore annually in subsidies.

Earlier in July, the EGoM on Food had cleared the draft Food Bill that will benefit 75 per cent of the rural population. UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council (NAC) had proposed coverage of the 90 per cent of rural population.