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Food security ordinance raises Opposition hackles
Parties say itís a hasty move, want debate in Parliament
Vibha Sharma/TNS

New Delhi, July 4
As the UPA government prepares to operationalise an ordinance giving the people of India the legal right to food, it is faced with serious political as well as logistical fallouts.
The ordinance will call for a massive effort by state governments, which face the uphill task of identifying the beneficiaries in time and ensuring delivery.

Opposition parties have criticised the government, saying it has chosen to issue an ordinance only weeks before Parliament is due to reconvene for its monsoon session. The ordinance will be in force for six months, or the government will have to introduce a bill to replace it within six weeks of the commencement of a parliament session. Failure to convene a session would mean the move lapses in six months.

The ordinance is aimed at giving a monthly food handouts to 67% of the population ó about 800 million Indians ó much below the market price.

The Opposition has stepped up its attack, accusing the government of bypassing Parliament and acting in a hurry with an eye on polls.

The government rejected the charge saying it wants to provide food security to millions and alleged that opposition leaders, who had earlier disrupted Parliament sessions, were now shedding "crocodile tears" over parliamentary propriety.

BJP president Rajnath Singh said his party wanted the Bill to pass after a debate and certain amendments. "The monsoon session is probably beginning from the third week of July, what was the need for doing it in such a hurry," he asked.

"There are several flaws in this Bill on which we want a debate in Parliament and wanted to pass this Bill with certain amendments," Rajnath said.

CPI (M) leader Brinda Karat too was critical, saying passing an ordinance ahead of a Parliament session was contempt of Parliament and injustice to the people.

"For four years, this government did not think that it was a priority to bring food security legislation," Karat said. Experts list several factors. First, is how to identify the poor

Significantly, the Bill is targeting 67 per cent of the population, which means it is not universal in nature. Since the socio-economic caste census is yet to be completed, it is not clear who the main beneficiaries of the programme will be.

Second, in big states like UP and Bihar, the public distribution system is in a shambles. So how does the Centre think these states will be able to successfully roll out the scheme in time? 

Third, the Centre seems to have left the implementation deadline with the states. In other words, it means the States will decide when, and if, they are ready to roll out the scheme. And fourth, the beneficiaries will get 25 kg food grain every month whereas in the existing PDS system, a family is already getting 35 kg a month. 

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