The union cabinet today approved changes to a landmark bill that grants rights to assured monthly quota of 5 kg of foodgrains to 67 per cent of the nation's population at as low a price as Rs1-3 per kg.
The amended food security bill guarantees 5 kg of foodgrains per person per month and 35 kg of grains every month to families of the poorest of the poor.
The bill provides for issue of rice through ration shops at Rs3 per kg, wheat at Rs2 and millets at Re1 per kg in the first three years of the implementation of the Act – at a fraction of the market price of over Rs20 kg for rice and Rs16 per kg for wheat.
State governments would decide the beneficiaries on the basis of the criteria provided by the Planning Commission for excluding 33 per cent of the affluent population, the minister said.
The bill provides for a single category of beneficiary with uniform entitlement of 5 kg per person per month at uniform price of Rs1-3 per kg for all beneficiaries.
The scheme would require about 62 million tonnes of foodgrains, while the food subsidy cost is estimated at Rs1,24,747 crore, at 2013-14 prices, up Rs23,800 crore from the existing level, he said.
"The revised food bill has been cleared by cabinet. We will try to bring amendments to the food bill in Parliament before Friday," food minister K V Thomas said after the cabinet meeting.
He said the government hoped to get the revised bill passed in the current session of Parliament that ends on 10 May.
The food security bill has gone through 55-56 amendments after the bill was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee, which submitted its report in January this year.
The original bill, introduced in the Lok Sabha in December 2011, had proposed 7 kg of rice or wheat or millet a month for priority category at Rs3, Rs2 and Re1 per kg, respectively, and at least 3 kg per person per month for general households at 50 per cent of support price.
The amended food bill that benefits the general households with entitlement for higher quantity of foodgrains at a lower price, is the pet project of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, and is seen as a major plank of the Congress for 2014 general elections.