Govt hopes to introduce food bill in Budget session: PM

New Delhi, Feb 24 (PTI) Prime Minister Manmohan Singhtoday said the government is trying to introduce the proposedNational Food Security Bill that seeks to provide a legalguarantee for cheaper foodgrains to the poor, in the Budgetsession of Parliament.

"...we hope to bring to this session of Parliament theNational Food Security Bill, which would give the people theright to food as the constitutional right," Singh told RajyaSabha while replying to a debate on the motion of thanks onthe President''s address.

The Budget session of Parliament has started fromFebruary 21 and is likely to conclude on April 21 this year.

Singh also stressed on the need to strengthen the publicdistribution system (PDS) to implement the proposed bill.

The Bill aims to provide the poor a legal guarantee forcheaper rice and wheat and was a part of the Congress'' 2009election manifesto.

UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi-headed National AdvisoryCouncil (NAC) is working on a draft Bill. The NAC has proposeda legal entitlement to subsidised foodgrains for 75 per centof the country''s total population.

According to NAC''s proposal, the government shouldprovide 35 kg of foodgrains a month to "priority households"at a subsidised rate of Rs 1 per kg for millet, Rs 2 for wheatand Rs 3 for rice.

For "general category" households, the NAC has suggestedsupplying 20 kg of foodgrains at a price not exceeding 50 percent of the prevailing minimum support price (Rs 5.50 a kg forwheat and Rs 7.70 per kg for rice now).

After examining the NAC proposals, the Prime Minister''spanel, headed by PMEAC chief C Rangarajan, has raised concernsover availability of the foodgrain to implement the NACproposal. The panel suggested providing legal guarantee to thepoor on a priority basis.

The projected requirement of foodgrains to implement NACproposal is higher than the current average procurement of50-54 million tonnes, Rangarajan had observed.

The government supplies subsidised rice and wheat throughration shops to Rs 6.52 crore below poverty line families andRs 11.5 crore above poverty families. But there are no legalguarantees for this at present.

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