Cabinet defers decision on draft Food Security Bill

New Delhi: The Cabinet today deferred a decision on the draft Food Security Bill that seeks to give legal entitlement to subsidised foodgrains to about 64 per cent of the country`s population.

"The discussion on the Food Bill remained inconclusive. We are trying our best to introduce the Bill in this session," Food Minister K V Thomas told reporters here after the Cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. According to sources, the National Food Security Bill got deferred due to paucity of time as there were a number of items on the agenda for today`s Cabinet meeting.

The Prime Minister wanted to hear the views of all the ministers before taking a final decision on the Bill, they said, adding the next meeting could be held on December 18. In the proposed law, beneficiaries have been divided into priority households and the general households. Priority households are the same as the families under the below poverty line in the existing public distribution system, while general households above poverty line families.

In rural area, up to 75 per cent of the people will be covered, with at least 46 per cent under priority households. In urban centres, up to 50 per cent of people will be covered, of which 28 per cent are under priority category. The bill seeks to provide 7 kg of rice and wheat to per person per month to priority households at Rs 3 and Rs 2 per kg, respectively. Persons under the general households would get at least 3kg at 50 per cent of the minimum support price.

Once the law is implemented, the food subsidy bill is expected to rise at about Rs 95,000 crore from Rs 63,000 crore in the last fiscal, while foodgrains requirement would go up to 61 million tonnes from 55 million tonnes. Under the present PDS, the government provides 35 kg of grains per month to 6.52 crore BPL families at Rs 4.15 and Rs 5.65 per kg, respectively. About 11.5 crore APL families gets between 15 and 35 kg of wheat and rice per month at Rs 6.10 and Rs 8.30/kg, respectively.