Food Bill to protect state allocations: Thomas
New Delhi, Feb 14 : Union Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution Minister K.V.Thomas on Thursday said that Centre will protect existing food grain allocation to the states and provide support for strengthening infrastructure for the successful implementation of National Food Security Act.
Addressing a press conference here on Thursday, Thomas also dispelled the apprehensions of the states regarding extra financial burden.
He said the Bill will entitle them food grains from the centre at much lower prices than the existing issue prices which would in fact lessen their financial burden.
He said that the standing committee has suggested coverage of 75% rural and 50% urban population under targeted public distribution system. "Thus 67% population is proposed to be covered under food security act."
Regarding food grain entitlement of 5 kg per person per month as suggested by the Standing Committee, Thomas said that in view of divergent views expressed by the states on some provisions of the Bill, the Center will take workable, practical and equitable approach, keeping the larger objective of the Bill in mind.
The Minister said the government intends to present the revised National Food Security Bill in the Parliament during Budget Session for consideration and passage, so that the people are ensured of its benefits at the earliest. "The Bill, to provide food security for all in a rights based manner, is being finalised in the light of recommendations of Parliamentary Standing Committee."
He said the proposed legislation marks a paradigm shift in addressing the problem of food security - from the current welfare approach to a right based approach.
"It seeks to provide for food and nutritional security, in human life cycle approach, by ensuring access to adequate quantity of quality food at affordable prices. About two thirds of the population will be entitled to receive subsidized food grains, in the case of priority household's prices not exceeding Rs. 3, 2, 1 per kg. for rice, wheat, coarse grains respectively,"said Thomas.
During consultations on the bill on Wednesday, most of the states agreed that the criteria for identification of beneficiaries should be evolved in consultation with them, as recommended by Standing Committee, said the Minister.
On the recommendation of giving flexibility to state/UTs to pass on the expenditure incurred by them on transportation, handling, fair price shop dealer's margin etc. to beneficiaries found broad acceptance by States.
Regarding grievance redressal mechanism states generally agreed to the recommendation of the Committee to allow States/UTs to use existing machinery, if they so desired. All the states demanded that additional expenditure, if any should be borne by the Central government substantially.
The National Food Security Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha in December, 2011 after a wide ranging process of consultation, including consultation with States on more than one occasion and thereafter was examined in detail by the Parliamentary Standing Committee.
State Food Ministers' meet was held on Wednesday to have final consultations on the Bill in the light of recommendations of the Standing Committee.
The Bill also contains provisions for nutritional support to women and children besides provisions for meals to special groups such as destitute and homeless, emergency and disaster affected persons and persons living in starvation.
Pregnant and lactating women will also be entitled to receive maternity benefit of Rs. 1000 per month for six months. In case of non-supply of food grains or meals, entitled persons will be provided food security allowance by the concerned State/Union Territory Governments.