The UPA government has finally decided to bite the bullet and bring an ordinance on food security.
As political deliberations with opposition parties yielded little guarantee so far of a smooth passage in case the food bill is brought, the Union cabinet on Thursday will consider a proposal to promulgate an ordinance.
Top Congress sources added that the bill to replace the ordinance will be introduced in the monsoon session of Parliament, the schedule of which is still to be finalised. But chances of any special session of Parliament are almost nil due to technical reasons.
The ordinance will guarantee per head 5 kg monthly subsidised foodgrain to 75% of rural and 50% of urban population.
But households under Antyodaya Anna Yojana will continue to get 35 kg of monthly food handout.
The price for rice, wheat and coarse grain has been stipulated at Rs 3, Rs 2 and Rs 1 respectively. But the government reserves the right to hike these prices after three years.
The government will cite two key reasons to push the ordinance. One, the government has already lost a lot of time since when president Pratibha Patil spoke about the food security bill back in 2009.
Two, there is a delay in getting it passed through normal parliamentary route.
The ordinance route was chosen after exploring other options like passing the bill through the normal parliamentary process. A section of the government including food minister KV Thomas initially even thought of rolling out some of the benefits through executive decisions. But Congress president Sonia Gandhi stood firm and conveyed to her lieutenants that she wants nothing less than a bill on food security.
The ordinance also says that while state-wise quota for identifying the target population will be decided by the Centre, the identification of eligible households will be done by states.
The food ministry has pegged an annual cost of R1,00,953 crore for the scheme that entails an additional expense of R23,794 crore from the current food subsidy.