No legal cover to 75% population in food bill: PM’s panel

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NEW DELHI: Prime Minister’s expert panel on Food Security Bill today 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”.

The recommendations of the expert committee, which went into the proposals suggested for the National Food Security Bill by the National Advisory Council (NAC), were made public today. The panel is headed by PM’s Economic Advisory Council (PMEAC) Chairman C Rangarajan.

The NAC, headed by Congress President Sonia Gandhi, had recommended legal entitlement to subsidised food grains to both ‘priority’ and ‘general’ households, covering at least 72 per cent population in phase-I starting 2011-12 and 75 per cent in the Phase-II in 2013-14.

Going by NAC proposal, the foodgrain requirement would be 74 million tonnes upon completion of final phase in 2014, while the total foodgrain availability with the government in 2011-12 and 2013-14 is likely to be 56.35 million tonnes and 57.61 million tonnes, respectively, based on the current production and procurement trends.

“It will not be possible to implement NAC recommended food entitlements for either of the phases,” the expert committee, said in its report.

Instead, the committee has suggested 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.

According to the panel recommendations, the grain requirement will be nearly 52 million tonnes in 2014 and the subsidy will be Rs 68,539 crores and if outgo on other welfare schemes and maintenance of buffer stocks included, the total subsidy would be Rs 83,000 crore.

At present, the government provides 35 kg of food grains to 6.52 crore families below poverty line (BPL) through raion shops. Wheat is provided at Rs 4.15 per kg and rice at Rs 5.65 per kg.

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This post was submitted by Mudit Agrawal.

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