The government today tabled in Parliament the Food Security Bill aimed at guaranteeing cheap food to the poorest.
The bill, conceptualised by the National Advisory Council, which aims to provide subsidised food to three-quarters of rural households and about half of urban households, has triggered a raging debate on the practical workability of the scheme.
According to the architect of the initial draft of the bill Harsh Mander, the current regime of buying grain and refusing to distribute was highly flawed. Mander says the bill would ensure that the grain would not rot in warehouses, as the government would be legally bound to distribute it to the people.
Around 65MT of grain would need to be procured from farmers for distribution under the scheme, up from around 55MT at present.
India's food subsidy bill would also climb to Rs90,000 crore from Rs65,000 crore at present to finance the scheme.
Among the salient proposals of the bill are:
- The cost of procuring grain would be borne by the centre and states
- All persons from "priority households" would be provided with 7kg of cheap foodgrains every month, while those belonging to the "general category" would be entitled at least 3kg of foodgrains per month
- "Free or affordable" meals would be provided to destitute, homeless and "disaster-affected" people as also to those "living in starvation"
- Wheat, rice and coarse cereals would be available to households in dire need at subsidised rates.