Food Bill debate saw Swaraj,Joshi raising Modi’s concerns but in vain

Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj objected to the inclusion of Clause 38 in the Bill and forced a voting.

Written by Express News Service | New Delhi | Published: August 29, 2013 12:23 am

Prompted by SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav’s demand for a meeting of chief ministers on the food security legislation during the discussion in Lok Sabha Monday,the BJP tried to do a balancing act during the voting on various clauses of the Bill to echo Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s similar demand made earlier this month.

Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj objected to the inclusion of Clause 38 in the Bill and forced a voting,saying the provision that vests the Central government with power to give “directions” to state governments for “effective implementation” of the law was violative of the federal structure. She appealed to the members to vote against it.

Modi in his letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh earlier this month had called for a meeting of chief ministers to discuss this provision.

Clause 38 of the Bill says,“The central government may,from time to time,give such directions,as it may consider necessary,to the state governments for the effective implementation of the provisions of this Act and the state governments shall comply with such directions.”

Despite Swaraj’s appeal,the government carried the day with 241 members voting in favour of the clause as against 109 who opposed. The voting forced by Joshi and Swaraj to mandate the Central government for “consultation with state governments” through amendments was also defeated by a voice vote.

Narendra Modi’s suggestion to the Prime Minister that there should a “uniform eligibility” criteria across states was also pushed by Swaraj and Joshi in different forms by advocating “all priority households” or “entire population”,respectively. Both these leaders forced a voice vote on these amendments but were rejected ultimately by the House.

The Gujarat CM’s criticism that proposed 25 kg per capita per month foodgrain entitlement was less than 35 kg available to BPL households was pushed by Joshi through an amendment demanding 50 kg per family a month. Joshi forced a vote on his suggestion,but it was rejected through a voice vote.

Joshi,in fact,in his speech had also dwelt at length on this aspect. Joshi’s suggestion for including pulses and edible oil among the entitlements also addressed Modi’s concern that the provisions did not even look at “nutritional security”.

Swaraj had forced a voting on her amendment seeking removal of the provision that barred government employees from availing maternity benefits prescribed under the Bill. However,it was rejected with only 147 votes in support while 255 vote against it.

Several other amendments moved by other BJP leaders — Harin Pathak,Nishikant Dubey and Sanjay Dhotre — also could not carry the day in the Lok Sabha Monday.

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