PM to discuss changes in Food Bill on Wednesday

New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has called a meeting tomorrow to consider uniform legal entitlement of subsidised foodgrains to 67 per cent of the country`s population under the National Food Security Bill. The meeting will discuss whether to accept the alternative plan, suggested by over 30 leading experts and economists, for easy and early implementation of Food Bill, a pet project of UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, sources said.

Terming the government`s Food Bill in the current form as "confusing, impractical and divisive", the experts have suggested to treat 67 per cent of the country`s population to be called as "aam log" should be covered under the Act. They have recommended providing atleast 25 kg of foodgrains at an uniform rate of Rs 3/kg rice, Rs 2/kg wheat and Re one per kg millet and asked the government do away with dividing beneficiaries into `general` and `priority` groups.

The proposal is in contrast with the government`s Food Bill, in which there is a proposal to provide 35 kg to priority households (BPL families) and a minimum 15 kg for general households (APL families). The Bill, introduced in the Lok Sabha in December 2011, is currently being vetted by the Parliamentary Standing Committee. The experts have also suggested the government to use `exclusion criteria` to identify beneficiaries and retain Antyodya Yojana.

Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, Food Minister K V Thomas, Home Minister P Chidambaram, Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia and PMEAC Chairman C Rangaran would be present in the meeting, sources said. The meeting has been called in the backdrop of delay in in Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC) on the basis of which the government has plans to identify beneficiary (general and priority households) for welfare programmes. The expert group include socio-economist Jean Dreze, Planning Commission member Abhijit Sen, among others.