With many state governments raising objections to the proposed national food security legislation on the provision of the Centre fixing the number of below poverty line (BPL) beneficiaries in their states and categorising them into two sections with differing entitlement,the Union government is learnt to be exploring alternatives to avoid confrontation with states.
Even as a Standing Committee of Parliament examines the Bill,senior functionaries in the Food Ministry on Thursday confided that the Central government is looking at options of ironing out these issues.
Regarding the Centre fixing BPL ceilings for individual states,the option that has emerged is to make it uniform. And regarding the categorisation of BPL and APL with beneficiaries eligible for same quantum of foodgrain at same price,the government is learnt to be looking at making 67 per cent of population eligible,irrespective of rural and urban areas with similar food guarantee in terms of quantity and prices without any categorisation of BPL or APL.
This is a major departure from the provisions of the Bill,which envisages to cover 63.5 per cent of population,with different quantum of foodgrain at different prices.
Informal calculations with the Food Ministry indicate that this alternative option will mean a reduction in the entitlement for the current BPL category to keep the food subsidy within manageable limits.
In fact,calculations reveal that the government cannot guarantee more than 25 kg of food grains to each family (APL and BPL alike) as against 35 kg for the BPL in the existing proposals.
State governments have serious differences over poverty figures and BPL card-holders with additional headache of identifying the BPL and APL categories. This approach would iron out these differences with states by giving them a respectable ceiling of 67 per cent beneficiaries without categorisation. After that it would be the headache of the states,minus the confrontation with the Centre,to identify the beneficiaries for the law, confided a senior functionary of the Food Ministry.
Sources said that this option envisage excluding 33 per cent of population from the ambit on well-known exclusion criteria such as people paying income-tax,owning motorised vehicles,among many others.