Prospects for food security Bill brighten

Prospects for food security Bill brighten

New Delhi: The prospects for legislation on food security brightened as the National Advisory Council (NAC) may consider a compromise with the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) over the terms of the proposed National Food Security Act (NFSA).

The Sonia Gandhi-led NAC, the political interface between the Congress party and the UPA government, is likely to “listen to the government’s side" before finalizing its recommendations for the legislation. This followed a presentation made by Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia on the Bill. Ahluwalia has apparently argued against the Universal Public Distribution System (UPDS), saying that it would increase the economic burden on the government to 1.9 trillion.

“The meeting did not discuss anything in detail. We just listened to the presentation," said one of the members who attended the meeting. “The discussions will reach more or less a final form by the next meeting. We have decided to listen to the government side meanwhile," said the member, who did not want to be identified.

The next meeting is scheduled to be held on 23 October.

According to a press release issued by NAC: “A presentation was made by Harsh Mander, convenor of the working group on the framework of (the) proposed Right to Food Security Bill, detailing the working group’s proposal."

It added that a further round of discussions is to take place before the proposal of the working group is finalised.

Apart from Ahluwalia, officials from the ministries of food and public distribution, women and child development and housing and urban poverty alleviation also made presentations before the 14-member committee.

According to a top official in the government, the NAC has sent a report to the food and public distribution ministry with its initial proposals. One of the suggestion it has given is “to provide wheat and rice at BPL (below poverty line) rates to 80% poor population—at 3 per kg (up to 35 kg) and 20% will get at it a higher price." The food security Bill seeks to provide legal rights to the poor to be provided a fixed quantity of rice or wheat at 3 per kg. The initial draft said coverage would be restricted to BPL households.

However, some of the NAC members wanted univerzalisation of the PDS.