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Govt may roll out food bill provisions

delhi Updated: Feb 02, 2012 00:49 IST
Zia Haq
Zia Haq
Hindustan Times
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Fearing a long haul for the much-anticipated food security bill before it becomes a law, the government may implement some of its provisions right away as part of routine measures.

“We may implement some of the provisions. Millions in this country are food-insecure. The government has an obligation to support them,” food minister KV Thomas told HT.

Such a decision would be possible to take once the results of a fresh socio-economic survey of Indians become known, probably next month, Thomas said.

Though introduced in Parliament, the food bill is far from taking affect as a law. It is currently being examined by a parliamentary standing committee, as is required under law-making.

Rolling out some of its provisions would enable the Congress-led UPA government to sidestep, for the time being, the need to reach a consensus on the bill, something easier said than done. Some key states and parties have said they disagree with the bill as laid in Parliament.

The bill, which stems from a Congress poll promise, provides for cheap staples for about 750 million Indians, or 63.5% of the population. Its drafting was closely overseen by Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi.

With more than 200 million food-insecure Indians, according to a 2008 FAO report, India is home to the world's largest number of hunger-stricken people.

Yet, getting parties to back the bill in Parliament, where it has been passed only in one House, could be tough. Bengal chief minister Mamata Bannerjee wants the bill to be universally applied, while Tamil Nadu differs with the pricing mechanism.

The food security bill is the second of two large entitlement-based welfare programmes, which analysts say, helped the Congress-led UPA return to power in 2009.