December 18th, 2011
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Cabinet clears food bill

food security bill cleared by the cabinet New Delhi: The Union cabinet gave the green signal to the food security bill today evening. The Bill would be introduced in parliament session after which it would be sent to a Standing Committee. The bill seeks to provide subsidized food grains to 75 percent of the rural population and about 50 percent of urban households. The cabinet presided by Prime Minister manmohan singh gave the go ahead to the bill after a 30 minute discussion.

Earlier Union Agricultural Minister Sharad Pawar had expressed reservation regarding the provisions in the bill. The food bill was considered to be indigestable in the given financial conditions. Pawar opined that India’s financial conditions are not strong enough to support a welfare scheme of such huge proportion. Currently with low industrial output, weak manufacturing sector and depreciating rupee value, the added financial burden of almost Rs 1 lakh crore due to the project would be hard to carry, he said.

Mamata Banerjee also stood against the passing of the bill. Even Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh said that the Food Security Bill was against the spirit of NAC recommendations. Thus last week the bill that is the pet project of Congress President Sonia Gandhi was put onto the back burner.

However, in the meeting held today, the bill was passed unanimously.The Food Security Bill is the second biggest social sector initiative after the rural employment guarantee scheme. It will be placed before the Parliament once cleared. The revised bill was prepared by the Mr KV Thomas.

When passed, the bill would guarantee food security to 63.5% Indians. It seeks to cover 75% of the total rural population, of which 46% would qualify as “priority” households. In urban areas, it will cover 50% of the total population, of which 28% will form the so-called “priority” category. All priority households would be given 7 kg per person or 35 kg per family of government-held grains at a subsidized price of Re 1 per kg for millet, wheat for Rs2 a kg and rice for Rs3 per kg.

The revised bill has done away with the provision that insisted on states to modernize the Public Distribution System (PDS) to avail the benefits of the Bill. It has also included universal coverage of pregnant and lactating mothers and the provision of nutritious food to them instead of just food as per the recommendations of the NAC.

Rupees 1000 shall be provided to pregnant and lactating mothers for a period of 6 months. Lactating women, along with children up to 14 years will also get the same cash benefit. It also provides the legal right to take home ration/ meal to women, children, special groups, including destitute and homeless, emergency and disaster affected persons living in starvation.

Food security bill indigestible

Cabinet to approve food security bill

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