The UPA poll promise of a Food Security Bill is back on the cards with the government expecting better agricultural growth in 2010 and a fall in food prices.
“The worst is over as far as food inflation is concerned,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told a conference of chief ministers on Saturday. The good crop prospects and Indian prices being broadly in line with international prices, the PM was confident that food prices would stabilise.
With this, the government has called a meeting of Group of Ministers (GoM) on Food Security Bill — put on hold because of 2009 drought — to discuss the basic tenets of the proposed law on Friday. Finance Minister Pranab Mukerjee, who heads the GoM, is expected to make some announcement in the budget this month end.
The proposed law aims at covering all residents but before that the government wants to strengthen the public distribution system (PDS), which the PM described as outdated, to plug leakages. As per the governments estimates there is 30-40 per cent pilferage of food grains in the PDS system.
According to government officials, an important issue on the agenda of the GoM is the initial draft of the proposed bill.
However, the issue of who would be entitled for the subsidised food is yet to be settled. The government is looking at whether only below poverty line families should be covered or all, irrespective of income. There is a view that the government may find it difficult to fund subsidised food for all.