M A I N   N E W S

Prez signs food security ordinance
Rate of subsidised grains subject to revision after three years
Vibha Sharma/TNS

New Delhi, July 5
President Pranab Mukherjee today signed the ordinance on food security, making food a legal right of two-third of Indian population. The largest food intervention scheme of the world will cost the government Rs 1,24, 794 crore annually and require a supply of 61.2 million tonnes of food grain to provide 82 crore people the right to 5 kg of food grain every month at highly subsidised rates of Rs 1 to 3 per kg.

There are provisions for food security allowance, penalty and a grievance redressal system in case of non-supply of food grain or meals. The government can opt for cash in lieu of food grain but only in case of an extreme emergency such as natural calamity or war.

The rate at which the grain will be supplied will be subject to revision. Official sources say subsidised prices - Rs 3, 2 and 1 - for rice, wheat and coarse grain for a period of three years from the date of commencement of the Act will be suitably linked to the minimum support price thereafter.

The clause will offset the extra burden on the government with every subsequent increase in the support price of grain, the officials explain.

This is important considering fears that the measure will be a financial burden on India’s stressed-out economy - an observation that the Congress today tried to dispel.

Food Minister KV Thomas and Congress leader Ajay Maken explained that the government had already allocated Rs 90,000 crore towards food subsidy in the current financial year.

Merged with schemes such as the Mid Day Meal and the Integrated Child Development Schemes, they said the additional burden on the exchequer arising out of the programme would only be Rs 23,800 crore.

“The country’s total Budget stands at Rs 5.55 lakh crore. An additional 23,800 crore will have no effect on the country’s financial management or fiscal deficit,” Thomas said.

The ordinance will now have to be approved by both Houses of Parliament within six months. The first test of the “game changer” scheme, as the Congress calls it, will be in the five-state Assembly elections scheduled later this year.

While the Congress will claim this as a demonstration of its commitment to fulfil a promise, for the BJP it will be an uphill task to counter the hype.

Maken agreed that for any political party it was important that it fulfilled its poll promise. “Our credibility will increase... the people will judge us on our performance.”

States, especially the BJP-ruled ones, are unlikely to follow the Congress’ plan of action though. While Thomas said it would be implemented throughout the country in six months, sources said states were bound to raise objections, citing lack of preparedness and poor infrastructure facilities as reasons. In order to address some of these concerns, the Centre has promised to provide assistance toward cost of intra-state transportation, handling of food grain and FPS dealers’ margin, for which norms will be developed.

The Congress is sure that the government will be able to gather the numbers to approve the ordinance in both Houses.

What it entails

The scheme will cover 75% rural and 50% urban populations

Ensure rice (at Rs 3/kg), wheat (Rs 2) and coarse grains (Re 1) for three years

Will be linked to MSP thereafter

Rs 6,000, meals, maternity benefits for pregnant, lactating mothers

Children between six months and 14 years entitled to meals

Eldest woman above 18 years to be the head of the household for issuing ration cards

Grievance redressal mechanism to be set up by states at district and state levels

Vigilance committees to ensure transparency, accountability

Provisions for penalising public servant or authority for failure to comply





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