Centre consulting states on Food Bill: President Patil

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New Delhi, Feb 21 (PTI) President Pratiba Patil todaysaid the Centre is consulting state governments on theproposed National Food Security Act (NFSA), which will givethe poor a legal entitlement to subsidised foodgrains.

"The states are being consulted as the success of theprogramme (NFSA) hinges critically on their commitment toreforms in the public distribution system (PDS)," Patil saidin her address to Parliament to mark the beginning of theBudget Session.

The government has received important inputs on theproposed Act from the National Advisory Council (NAC), headedby UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, she said.

"I had announced earlier my government''s commitment tobring forward the NFSA that will entitle statutorily everyfamily below the poverty line to foodgrains at highlysubsidised prices. Important inputs in this regard have beenreceived from the NAC," the President said.

The UPA government had announced in 2009 that it willcome out with a food security law under which a fixed quantityof rice or wheat will be provided at subsidised price eachmonth to the poor.

Currently, a draft Food Bill is under preparation andPrime Minister Manmohan Singh recently said it will soon betabled in Parliament.

The NAC has submitted its suggestions on the proposedBill to the government and the same has been examined by thePM''s panel, headed by PMEAC Chairman C Rangarajan.

There is a difference of opinion over the number ofbeneficiaries to be covered under the law and the governmentis yet to take a final view on the issue.

While the NAC has suggested providing subsidisedfoodgrains to 75 per cent of the country''s population,including priority and general households, the RangarajanCommittee is of the view that it will only be feasible tocover ''priority'' households, which it had identified as 46 percent of the rural population and 28 per cent of urban India.

Pointing out that inflation has been "a problem in thepast year", Patil said the long-term solution lies in raisingproduction and the productivity of agri-crops.

She listed "combating inflation" as one of the toppriorities for the government in 2011-12.

The President highlighted that the government hasprovided huge incentives to farmers by hiking the minimumsupport price (MSP) for various agricultural products sharply,as well as farm credit flows.

Citing examples, Patil said the paddy MSP has been raisedfrom Rs 550 per quintal to Rs 1,000 and that of wheat from Rs630 per quintal to Rs 1,120 over a six-year period. MORE PTILUX MJH ARV

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