PM''s panel suggest cheap rice, wheat to poor under food law

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New Delhi, Jan 13 (PTI) Prime Minister''s expert committeeon National Food Security Bill today recommended that theassured delivery of wheat at Rs 2/kg and rice at Rs 3/kg couldbe given only to poor and expressed difficulty inaccommodatinggeneral category in view of projected food availability.

In contrast, National Advisory Council (NAC), headed byUPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, had recommended legalentitlement to subsidised foodgrains to both ''priority'' and''general'' households, covering at least 75 per cent of thecountry''s population.

"EC recommends the assured delivery of foodgrains at Rs 2per kg for wheat and Rs 3 per kg for rice, to the really needyhouseholds and the coverage of the rest through an executiveorder with a varying quantum depending on the availability offoodgrains," the committee, which is headed by PMEAC ChairmanC Rangarajan, said in its report.

The committee has suggested the legal entitlement to 46per cent of rural and 28 per cent of urban population, whichit said "are the same as NAC recommended ''priority''households".

This captures not only the poor but also some at themargin, the report added.

"National Food Security Bill (NFSB) creates a statutoryentitlement for the included population and a legal obligationfor the government, hence important to mandate enforceableentitlements keeping in mind the availability of grain," itargued.

In its election manifesto, the Congress Party hadpromised to bring food law, under which it would provide 25 kgof wheat or rice per month at Rs 3 per kg to the poor.

The committee pointed out that foodgrains requirement aswell as subsidy outgo projection by the NAC is on the lowerside. .

The report said that the total foodgrain requirement for entitled population (priority households), buffer stockand other welfare programmes is estimated to be 50.96 milliontonnes this year, while procurement at 56.35 million tonnes.

The committee said, "The balance of foodgrains around5 million tonnes can be distributed to the non-entitledpopulation (general households) at an issue price equal tominimum support price, which is likely to be lower than themarket prices."

The subsidy outgo for foodgrains for entitled householdsis estimated to be Rs 83,000 crore, which includes the subsidyfor welfare programmes and maintenance of buffer stock, itsaid.

Besides this, the committee recommended that more focusshould be given on increasing foodgrain production, create astable procurement regime, comprehensive computerisation ofpublic distribution system and introduction of smart cards forthe beneficiaries.

It also said that the state governments should beentrusted with responsibility of identifying thebeneficiaries.

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