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NAC heading for confrontation with PM’s panel

Heading for further confrontation with Prime Minister’s Office, Sonia Gandhi headed National Advisory Council will soon issue a paper to counter the PM’s Expert Committee’s claim that its proposed National Food Security law cannot be implemented.

delhi Updated: Jan 21, 2011 23:35 IST
Chetan Chauhan

Heading for further confrontation with Prime Minister’s Office, Sonia Gandhi headed National Advisory Council will soon issue a paper to counter the PM’s Expert Committee’s claim that its proposed National Food Security law cannot be implemented.

In its first indication of the confrontation, the NAC on Friday issued a draft of the proposed food security law as per its recommendations to the government in October 2010 to cover 75 % of the country’s population – 90 % in rural parts and atleast 50 % in urban areas.

The committee headed by C Rangarajan, head of PM Economic Advisory Council, had rejected the NAC recommendations saying they were not feasible considering projected food availability and large subsidy implications (of Rs 92,000 crore).

It instead suggested that the proposed law should cover only new below poverty line population of 46 % in rural areas and 28 % in urban areas as recommended by Tendulkar Committee.

“NAC is sticking to its 23 October recommendation,” said council member Narendra Jhadav, while confirming that the committee’s recommendations were discussed. The government has, however, not sent the committee’s report to NAC.

Most of the NAC members criticized the committee’s recommendation saying it indicated the government unwillingness to provide a broad food security cover to Indians and termed NAC recommendations as “realistic”.

“If the government can give relief to thousands of crores of rupees to the industry why a similar money is not being provided for nutritional security of the country,” a NAC member said, who was not willing to be quoted.

Some members also circulated a critique of the committee’s recommendation at the meeting, which will now be considered by NAC’s working group to prepare an analytical report to be discussed at the council’s next meeting on February 26.

The council’s draft law proposes a public distribution system (PDS) where vulnerable in the priority category will get 35 kg of food grains every month at a maximum price of Rs three per kg. For the general category the price proposed is half of maximum support price for entitlement of 20 kg per month.

It also says the PDS shops will be managed by community committees instead of government officials. Instead of the Central government, the state governments will be encouraged to procure food grains for PDS, the proposed law says.

The NAC also aims to bring food entitlement schemes such as Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), midday meal, nutrition take home rations for children under three and lactating mothers and maternity entitlements of Rs 1,000 month for six months fro pregnant mothers within the ambit of the law.

The council also decided to ask the government to ensure that all in the priority category and all scheduled caste and scheduled tribes should be included in the Below Poverty Line (BPL) census.

The council also of the view that the government’s proposed Right to Information (RTI) rules will dilute the RTI rules.