New Delhi: The food security Bill, one of the key programmes of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), is likely to be tweaked after Congress president Sonia Gandhi prevailed on the government to expand its scope, especially in the north eastern states and backward districts.

Gandhi, who also chairs the National Advisory Council (NAC), has asked the government to ensure that 90% of the population in 13 states, including north eastern states and Jammu and Kashmir, should be covered under the National Food Security Act, according to a person familiar with the development. “She also wants 75% of the population in the 250 backward districts—irrespective of urban and rural classification—should come under the Bill in the first phase itself," the same person said.

At a meeting on Wednesday between the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the department of food over the draft law, the government decided to discuss Gandhi’s suggestions with Rita Sharma, secretary, NAC, on Thursday. Wednesday’s meeting was attended by minister for food, consumer affairs and public distribution K.V. Thomas, principal secretary, PMO, Pulok Chatterji among others.

The food security Bill that seeks to provide foodgrains at subsidized rates to 75% of the rural population and 50% of urban India—or about two-thirds of the population as per the 2011 Census figures—is expected to be a major election plank for the ruling party as political parties are gearing up for a series of assembly polls and Lok Sabha election in 2014.

Mint reported on 29 January that the government is pushing for the legislation to be taken up in the first part of the budget session, beginning next month. The Congress reiterated its pledge to get the legislation passed as soon as possible at a recent party conclave in Jaipur.

The National Food Security Bill was introduced in Parliament in December 2011. The standing committee on food, consumer affairs and public distribution, which submitted its report on 17 January, has proposed to identify a single category of beneficiaries with a uniform entitlement of 5kg foodgrain per person per month. The original Bill proposes an entitlement of 7kg foodgrain per person as did the NAC, which sets the social agenda of the Congress-led government.

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