Rajya Sabha cleared the ambitious National Food Security Bill after an extended sitting that ended late on Monday night. The Bill,which will replace the existing food security ordinance,will become law after it receives the assent of the President and is notified by the administrative ministry.
None of the amendments moved by the Opposition were passed,with the BSP,DMK,SP and JD(U) coming to the rescue of the government.
Earlier,Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley accused the government of violating constitutional norms by issuing an ordinance when a Parliament session was less than a month away. He was echoed by leaders of several parties,and Opposition MPs termed it a gimmick for the elections.
Even Congress MP Mani Shanker Aiyar expressed strong displeasure over the Bill in its present form. It ignores the role of panchayats in the public distribution system and relies more on the bureaucracy,he said.
Jaitley said,An ordinance is brought if there is a matter of utmost urgency and it cant await… Parliament. What would have happened in 30 days that we couldnt wait? …It is misuse of your right to issue an ordinance.
The BJP,CPM,CPI and AIADMK moved a statutory resolution for disapproval of the ordinance.
The Bill was merely a repackaging of existing food schemes,Jaitley said. The total subsidy under schemes like PDS,ICDS and midday meals was Rs 1,24,844 crore,while that in the food Bill was Rs 1,25,000 crore,he said.
Venkaiah Naidu said the Bill was a gimmick. For four and a half years you never thought of this. Suddenly a few months before elections you are rushing through this Bill…, he said.
BSP chief Mayawati,who supported the Bill,said most facilities were already being implemented,and there was a budget provision as well. Yet,the government was creating an impression that more funds were being allocated,she said.
CPMs Sitaram Yechury questioned the timing of the legislation,and demanded that the Bill should cover the entire population of the country. If the government is sincere about respecting the dignity of people,it should extend the programme to the entire population because there are mulnourished people among the remaining 33 per cent of the population who would not be covered, he said.
Derek OBrien (TMC) said the government of making a mockery of federalism by imposing the programme on states.
Naresh Agarwal (SP) said states should have been consulted before bringing the Bill. This is a vote Bill,not a food Bill, he said. His party,however,supported the government during voting on amendments.
Bashistha Narain Singh (JD-U) demanded that the Centre bear the entire cost of implementing the programme,as states like Bihar were not in a position to incur additional expenditure.
Opposing the Bill,V Maitreyan (AIADMK) listed 10 reservations,including the provision of covering 50 per cent of the urban poor.
Replying to the debate,Food Minister K V Thomas said he was not saying it (the scheme) is 100 per cent perfect but it was a first step towards universalization of the public distribution system.
Proceedings were held up for some time after a faux pas by the treasury benches during the voting on the statutory resolution moved by Jaitley. The benches inadvertently said ayes to the resolution. The matter was finally resolved through a division of votes,with 118 votes against and 92 in favour.