Long due,Food Security Bill meets mixed reaction

The Bill aims to provide highly subsidised foodstuff to two-thirds of the country.

Written by PTI | New Delhi | Updated: April 8, 2014 5:00 pm

The Samajwadi Party (SP),which supports the UPA from outside, Monday demanded the landmark Food Security Bill be put in abeyance until the states are consulted while the BJP dubbed it as a “vote security bill”.

The main opposition party picked holes in the proposed law and questioned how it would be implemented and who would be the beneficiaries.

Initiating the debate after Food Minister K V Thomas moved the bill for consideration,Murli Manohar Joshi (BJP) said he was in favour of the legislation that will provide highly subsidised food to two-thirds of the country’s population. At the same time,he said there were flaws in the bill which should be rectified.

Suggesting that the bill had been brought with an eye on the elections,Joshi said,“In 2009,the then President of India in his address had talked about Food Security Bill. But you have brought this bill when you are going out”

SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav too contended that the bill was being brought with an eye on elections and said it should be kept in abeyance till chief ministers are consulted as it would put an additional burden on states. 

Raising a number of questions over the bill,Yadav said it would badly hurt farmers as there was no guarantee in the provisions that all the produce would be bought by the government.

“It is clearly being brought for elections. Why didn’t you bring this bill earlier when poor people were dying because of hunger? Every election,you bring up a measure. There is nothing for the poor,” he said.

He questioned the government whether it had any assessment of the number of poor in the country. “There is no mention in the Bill. You don’t have any figure. You are only going by assumptions,” Yadav said,adding the Bill could be brought only after the BPL census was completed.

He said he would support the bill,which provides for highly subsidised foodgrains to two-thirds of the country’s population,if certain amendments are moved. “This bill is neither for the poor,nor for the farmers.”

Emphasising that the measure would put additional financial burden on the states,Yadav said the Centre should consult chief ministers and until then,keep it in abeyance. 

On the other hand,Dara Singh Chauhan of the BSP,another key outside supporter,backed the bill saying it would provide food security to the poor.

JD-U President Sharad Yadav,whose party recently parted ways with BJP-led NDA over Narendra Modi issue,praised Sonia Gandhi for “speaking in the language of the country” while participating in the debate on the bill.

At the same time,he said the measure is a national scheme and no burden should be put on the state governments. 

Kalyan Banerjee (TMC) said the bill should not be used as a political gimmick. He expressed apprehension that this would be treated as political gimmick in the coming elections. 

Banejree said the Centre will bring such schemes at the time of elections but states would be compelled to bear the burden.

Banerjee said TMC will support the measure if the government deleted Section 38,which makes state governments equally responsible for implementing the scheme.

T R Baalu (DMK) praised provisions in the pro-poor measure enacted under the leadership of Congress president Sonia Gandhi. He,however,said prevalence of problems like malnutrition are very high in India.

Praful Patel (NCP) said the government should endeavour to give universal coverage to the food Bill and give food grains to all sections of poor people and not limit it to just 75 per cent or 50 per cent of the rural and urban population.

He said the Nationalist Congress Party is in favour of the Bill. “We need to work for welfare and prosperity of this country,” he said,adding that food security should be provided to people.

Patel said he does not agree to the poverty line of Rs 28.65 per capita daily consumption as given by Planning Commission.

Bhartruhari Mahtab (BJD) observed that the Bill should give food security to people on the basis of per-household,instead of per-capita as proposed. Mahtab said the per-capita approach would create confusion among people and lead to harassment when new members are introduced in the family. He demanded that states should be given flexibility to decide whether they want the per-capita or per-household approach. The exclusion criteria should also be state specific,he said and suggested that the public distribution system should be strengthened to provide food grains.

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