Centre seeks states’ consensus on Food Bill

New Delhi: With Centre planning to present Food Bill in the Budget session of Parliament, Food Minister K V Thomas on Wednesday urged states to evolve a consensus on contentious issues like coverage and identification of beneficiaries.
The Food Bill, which was introduced in the Lok Sabha in December 2011, aims to give legal right over subsidised foodgrains to two-third of the country's population.
In its latest report, the Parliamentary panel has suggested drastic changes in the Bill, saying all the beneficiaries be provided 5 kg of wheat and rice per month at a uniform rate of Rs 2 and Rs 3 per kg, respectively.
"The Standing Committee has made recommendations. However, those relating to coverage under PDS, identification of beneficiaries, entitlement to foodgrains and their prices are the principle ones, which require careful consideration. There are divergent views on each of these issues," Thomas said.
He was addressing the consultation meet of state food ministers on Food Bill here.
The challenge is "to arrive at a workable, practical and equitable approach, keeping the larger objective of the bill in mind," he said.
Stating this is the last opportunity for consultation before finalising the Bill, Thomas said,"We need to finalise our views on these recommendations early, give a final shape to the Bill and present it back to Parliament for consideration and passage in the ensuing Budget session."
The views of the state governments are "extremely important" as "still there are certain aspects which need to be discussed before taking a final view."
At present, below poverty line (BPL) families effectively get 7 kg of wheat and rice at Rs 4.15 and Rs 5.65 per kg respectively per month.
Government had proposed to change this in the Food Security Bill by allotting 7 kg of wheat and rice to a person at Rs 2 and Rs 3 per kg. Non-BPL families, as per the Bill, were to get 3 kg of foodgrain at half of the government fixed minimum support price, which translates into about Rs 7 per kg for wheat and Rs 10 per kg for rice.
If the Parliamentary panel's recommendations are accepted, it will benefit the general population in both price and quantity, while BPL member will get lesser quota than what was proposed in the original Bill.
Thomas further said the Supreme Court has also from time to time passed orders for strengthening the Public Distribution System (PDS) on which states are also required to file their response.
About 17 states including West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and Gujarat are participating in day-long meeting.