EGoM to finalise food security bill on April 25

New Delhi, April 10 (PTI): The Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) is likely to finalise the much-awaited draft of the food security bill at its meeting on April 25, even as the issue related to the number of poor households remains unresolved. According to a formula being worked by EGoM for sharing the subsidy, the centre would bear the burden of providing cheaper foodgrain to 8.1 crore poor households, while the states would chip in for another 2.9 crore households.
“The EGoM on food security is likely to meet on April 25 to finalise the draft legislation, wherein the Centre would share the subsidy burden for the BPL households recognised by it and remaining funds requirement would be met by states,” said source close to the development. The bill, which seeks to provide legal entitlement for cheaper food grains to poor households, has been hanging fire because of differences between the centre and states over the poverty estimates. While the Tendulkar Committee, appointed by the Planning Commission, has recently said that there were 8.1 crore Below Poverty Line (BPL) households in the country, the states have issued 11 crore BPL ration cards.
Currently, the centre supplies every month 35 kg of rice and wheat at subsidised rates to 6.52 crore BPL families through ration shops. The draft bill is likely to propose cash transfer of subsidy to the BPL card holders’ account, instead of providing cheap foodgrain. The cash transfer is likely to be done through smart cards. Earlier, following differences between the Sonia Gandhi headed National Advisory Council and the Rangarajan Committee, the EGoM on food met on March 17 and deferred its decision on the feasibility of providing legal entitlement of cheaper foodgrain to the poor under the proposed legislation. The PM’s panel on the proposed Food Security Bill headed by PMEAC Chairman C Rangarajan had differed with the National Advisory Council (NAC) on the issue of sustained availability of such a largesse to the poor.
The source said the Prime Minister’s Office wants to fast track the Food bill and has directed the Food Ministry to place the reports prepared by NAC and the Rangarajan Committee before the EGoM to resolve differences and reach a final view. The NAC has suggested providing legal entitlement to 75 percent of the population, which includes both “priority” and “general” household category. The Rangaranjan Committee, which examined the NAC’s proposals, has raised concern over the availability of foodgrain if large number of beneficiaries are covered under the proposed law. The Committee’s view was to provide a legal entitlement to certain “priority” households alone.