The proposed National Food Security law is likely to ensure food grains for poor, destitute and street people. Those defined as non-poor by the Planning Commission will be kept out of the ambit of the law.
In a bid to keep fiscal deficit within manageable limits, an Empowered Group of Ministers at a meeting last Friday — held after a gap of nearly four months — has reportedly agreed to a Food ministry proposal that those above poverty line should not be covered under the proposed law. Just 27.5 per cent of India’s population is estimated to be poor.
The food ministry had estimated that the cost of ensuring minimum 25 kg of food grains at subsidised cost to all Indians would mean a burden of Rs 1,00,000 crore to India.
“Such a move will be bad for fiscal management,” said a government official. The Central government fiscal deficit for 2009-10 was 6.8 per cent, which the government aims to bring down to less than six per cent in the next budget.
The eGoM has agreed with the ministry’s proposal to continue with the existing status of the Antyodyaya Anna Yojana, in which 35 kg of rice or wheat is provided to the poorest among the poor at a rate of Rs 2 per kg.
Even bringing orphans and street children under the ambit of the proposed law was being considered through welfare institutions of the state governments, an official said. They are not entitled to subsidized food grains under the existing Public Distribution System.
To end the unending dispute over number of poor, the ministry had proposed the law should bind state governments to accept Planning Commission’s poverty figures.
The ministry has also proposed that the poverty estimates should be reviewed every five years considered the projected population figures provided by the Registrar General of India. Apart from that, the ground level surveys to identify the poor should be uniform all over India.