Food bill: Stretching the ceiling to 67% | delhi | Hindustan Times
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Food bill: Stretching the ceiling to 67%

delhi Updated: Sep 05, 2012 01:50 IST
Zia Haq

Ironing out last-mile hurdles in the National Food Security Bill, the ruling Congress's flagship social safety legislation, the government has decided to have a single category of beneficiaries - instead of two - and give 67% of the population a legal right to food.

The changes are aimed at addressing worries within the government that the proposed legislation is unwieldy in its current form, and needs fine-tuning to prevent it from draining public finances.

The bill is currently being scrutinised by a parliamentary panel. Some of the changes could come as part of the parliamentary panel’s suggestions, following consultations.

Food minister KV Thomas said 67% of beneficiaries would qualify as a single "priority category" for food handouts.

To meet the obligations, the government will require 62 million tonnes of grains, up from 60 million tonnes now. The expenses are expected to touch nearly Rs. 1.19 lakh crore, an increase of about Rs. 9,000 crore from the current subsidy on grains.

Each member of a household, entitled to cheap grains under the proposed food law, will get 5 kg of rice, wheat or millets at R3, R2 and R1 a month, which is way below the market price.

Eliminating the "general" category gives the government more legroom to widen the coverage from the proposed 63.5% of the population to 67%. But entitlements may be pared to 25 kg, from the earlier 35 kg per household.