The Cabinet is likely to take up the food security bill on Tuesday, amid strong indications that the flagship social welfare legislation, whose drafting was overseen by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, could be introduced in Parliament in the ongoing winter session.
The Cabinet note has been finalised for the bill, prepared by the KV Thomas-headed food ministry by reworking an earlier version, which was found wanting by the Congress leadership in August last year.
The recast was aimed at a legislation in line with the ruling Congress’ assurances in its 2009 manifesto, but stretching its boundaries could cost the government an excess of Rs1 lakh crore annually in subsidies.As it stands, the legislation, when passed, would guarantee food security to 63.5% Indians. It seeks to cover 75% of the total rural population, of which 46% would qualify as "priority" households. In urban areas, it will cover 50% of the total population, of which 28% will form the so-called "priority" category. All priority households would be given seven kg per person or 35 kg per family of government-held grains at a subsidised price of Re 1 per kg for millet, wheat for Rs2 a kg and rice for Rs3 per kg.
General households would get three kg grains per person, to be offered at half the price at which the government buys from farmers, also called the minimum support price (MSP).
The new bill provides for cash benefits to meet enhanced food requirements of pregnant women, who would get Rs1,000 for first six months of pregnancy, and lactating women, as well as children up to 14 years.
Households will be identified by state governments. In case of shortfall, the Centre will provide funds to states.