Walking the extra mile to bring round states opposing the UPA’s flagship food security bill, food minister KV Thomas on Thursday agreed to some key demands, including a guarantee that the proposed bill will not cut down on current levels of food handouts.
With a general election predicted to be less than a year away, the Congress-led UPA is moving speedily to bring the bill to Parliament in the budget session for enactment.
Hobbled by last-mile objections from many states, Thomas said the Centre would give states enough legroom on key matters, such as freedom to decide whom to exclude.
While the food security bill will stick to monthly food handouts of 5kg for every entitled person, or 25 kg for a family of five — the average size of an Indian household — Thomas pledged to continue current allocations, which is 35 kg in some states.
“Whatever (allocations) states are getting will be protected,” he said. Thomas also assured that some 20 million families who count as “poorest among the poor” and enjoy higher food entitlements would be included under the proposed law.
To persuade states, the food minister also announced that the Centre would give funds to states to build temporary warehouses to store at least three months’ grains because the food security law needs to be implemented within a year of its enactment.
“Identification of beneficiaries will be done by the states. This is what we decided,” Thomas said, concluding hectic negotiations with the states.
Thomas said the government’s expenses is likely to go up by Rs.20,000 crore from the current food subsidy bill of about Rs.1 lakh crore.