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HindustanTimes Tue,16 Sep 2014

Left to right, MPs push for higher food quota

Zia Haq and Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, August 17, 2013
First Published: 22:51 IST(17/8/2013) | Last Updated: 01:59 IST(18/8/2013)

The ruling Congress will find it tough to push its version of the food security bill, as various parties, including the main Opposition BJP, have proposed major amendments or alterations.

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These include expanding the quota of cheap grain in the massive food programme and including lentils, the main source of protein for the poor.

A list of amendments moved by at least 19 MPs of the Lok Sabha collated by the Right to Food Campaign, a civil society movement, showed that most parties wanted cash transfers and food stamps scrapped.

The UPA government proposes to replace subsidies in kind, such as fuel and food, with cash.

The switch, some studies show, would bring down the cost of delivery. However, food security campaigners argue that this could compromise “food security”.

Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, has demanded scrapping of the “provision of cash transfer” and “food coupons”.

Although the UPA’s food bill, which proposes to provide cheap grain to about 800 million Indians, or 67% of the population, provides for cash transfers, it seeks to defer the move until 90% of beneficiaries have access to a simple bank account.

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Swaraj has also demanded a single category of priority households that should include all people belonging to the disadvantaged Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

She has demanded that grain be delivered at all times, while the food bill provides for monetary allowances during “force majeure” conditions, such as natural disasters.

Sushma Swaraj has also sought deletion of “ready to eat meals”, which could mean semi-processed pre-cooked foods.

Several MPs, including those of the Samajwadi Party, the CPI(M) and the BJP, have demanded inclusion of pulses to enhance nutritional security.

Major amendments moved by the CPI(M) include increasing the quantity of grain to 7kg, from 5 kg in the government’s bill.

Most of the amendments seek to delink the biometric ‘Aadhar’ identification cards and the food security law.


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