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Zia Haq, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, February 18, 2013
Congress chief Sonia Gandhi has asked the government to include nearly 25 million families who qualify as "poorest among India's poor" - and covered under existing food handouts - in the proposed National Food Security Bill, due to be placed in the Budget session.

The change is being incorporated by the food ministry as an amendment to draft law and this could take up the number of people who would qualify for food aid under the food bill from 67% earlier.

"The coverage could exceed 67% and go up to 70%," an official said, requesting anonymity.

Gandhi is also understood to have asked the government to ensure that existing levels food allocations should be maintained.

Although the bill itself will only guarantee monthly food handouts of 5kg for every entitled person, or 25 kg for a family of five - the average size of an Indian household - Gandhi has asked the government to continue current allocations, which is 35 kg in some states.

The existing allocations - higher than what is proposed under the food bill -- will be made operational through an "executive order", or an administrative decision. 

Currently, 25 million households across the country receive 35 kg of food aid every month under the "Antyodaya Anna Yojana".

Gandhi is said to told the government that unless these vulnerable families are covered, a food security law would be meaningless.

The Planning Commission is finalizing a list of parameters that states need to adopt to decide who should be kept out of food handouts.