Food bill may come before Parliament on Tuesday

The union cabinet on Sunday adopted the national food security bill, paving the way for its introduction in Parliament, probably on Tuesday.

"The cabinet has cleared the bill and it will be introduced during this session," food minister K V Thomas said in a terse statement after the meeting, refusing to divulge more since Parliament is in session.

The bill, considered a pet legislation of Congress president Sonia Gandhi's National Advisory Council, was earlier opposed by some constituents of the ruling United Progressive Alliance, mainly agriculture minister Sharad Pawar of the Nationalist Congress Party and National Congress chief Farooq Abdullah, who felt the bill would impose an excessive burden on the exchequer, apart from difficulties in obtaining the quantity of grains required, that would affect exports by the private trade. However, their objections have been overcome.

The prime minister briefed top ministers such as Pranab Mukherjee, Sharad Pawar, A K Antony and P Chidambaram just before the cabinet meeting, where he said it was "political commitment" that the government must fulfil.

''We have enough money and enough food grains and fears that the subsidy bill will shoot up to Rs2 lakh crore are totally unfounded,'' food minister K V Thomas had said on Friday. He is said to have repeated this argument in the cabinet meeting.

The bill will now be sent to a parliamentary standing committee for further scrutiny and incorporating suggestions from allies and the opposition.