PM’s committee on Food Bill wants delivery of wheat,rice to poor,but shuns rest of population.
Panel thereby also disfavoured Sonia Gandhi headed NAC’s proposal of legally entitling 75 per cent of population to subsidised foodgrains saying it will not be possible in view of the current availability.
The expert panel,however,recommended “assured delivery of foodgrains at Rs 2 per kg for wheat and Rs 3/kg for rice,to the really needy households and the coverage of the rest through an executive order,with a varying quantum depending on the availability of foodgrains”.
Experts panel recommended that the delivery of wheat at Rs 2/kg and rice at Rs 3/kg could be given only to the poor and expressed difficulty in accommodating the general category population in view of projected food availability.
In contrast,National Advisory Council (NAC),headed by UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi,had recommended legal entitlement to subsidised foodgrains to both ‘priority’ and ‘general’ households,covering at least 75 per cent of the country’s population.
“EC recommends the assured delivery of foodgrains at Rs 2 per kg for wheat and Rs 3 per kg for rice,to the really needy households and the coverage of the rest through an executive order with a varying quantum depending on the availability of foodgrains,” the committee,which is headed by PMEAC Chairman C Rangarajan,said in its report.
The committee has suggested the legal entitlement to 46 per cent of rural and 28 per cent of urban population,which it said “are the same as NAC recommended ‘priority’ households”.
This captures not only the poor but also some at the margin,the report added.
“National Food Security Bill (NFSB) creates a statutory entitlement for the included population and a legal obligation for the government,hence important to mandate enforceable entitlements keeping in mind the availability of grain,” it argued.
In its election manifesto,the Congress Party had promised to bring food law,under which it would provide 25 kg of wheat or rice per month at Rs 3 per kg to the poor.
The committee pointed out that foodgrains requirement as well as subsidy outgo projection by the NAC is on the lower side. The report said that the total foodgrain requirement for entitled population (priority households),buffer stock and other welfare programmes is estimated to be 50.96 million tonnes this year,while procurement at 56.35 million tonnes.
The committee said,”The balance of foodgrains around 5 million tonnes can be distributed to the non-entitled population (general households) at an issue price equal to minimum support price,which is likely to be lower than the market prices.”
The subsidy outgo for foodgrains for entitled households is estimated to be Rs 83,000 crore,which includes the subsidy for welfare programmes and maintenance of buffer stock,it said.
Besides this,the committee recommended that more focus should be given on increasing foodgrain production,create a stable procurement regime,comprehensive computerisation of public distribution system and introduction of smart cards for the beneficiaries.
It also said that the state governments should be entrusted with responsibility of identifying the beneficiaries.