Union Cabinet clears Food Security Bill
The bill will allow nearly half the people living in urban areas and 75 per cent of the rural population to avail subsidised rice, wheat and coarse grains.
The main beneficiaries are the ones already aided by the public distribution system. A ration card holder will be given 7 kg of rice at the rate of Rs 3 per kilogram, the same quantity of wheat at Rs 2 a kg and 7 kg of coarse grains at Rs 1 per kg.
The ruling UPA is hoping that the decision to supply cheap wheat and rice will fetch it rich dividends in the next general elections. The provision of subsidised foodgrains to the poor was one of the promises made by the Congress party in its manifesto for the 2009 Lok Sabha polls.
However, the financial implications of the proposal meant that it was stymied till now. The bill could push up the overall food subsidy to nearly Rs 95,000 crore.
The Agriculture Ministry cited another problem while opposing the bill. Nationalist Congress Party supremo Sharad Pawar who holds the crucial portfolio felt that the lack of foodgrains in the country would prove to be an impediment in the bill's implementation.
A total of 61 million tonnes of foodgrains will be required to provide food security to all the beneficiaries who are expected to be covered under the new bill.
Apart from cheap foodgrains to poor families, the bill proposes to provide at least three kg of foodgrains per month to each person who falls in the general household category at a rate that is half of the Minimum Support Price.
The UPA has ensured that the weaker sections including pregnant women, children, lactating mothers, homeless, destitutes and people who are starving will benefit from the provisions of the bill.