The Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council has rejected the existing Communal Violence (prevention, control and rehabilitation of victims) Bill and called for a fresh law that includes in its title and scope sectarian violence and defines new crimes.
Concerned at the threat such violence poses to the national fabric, the panel suggested creation of a national authority as the existing non-statutory National Integration Council and National Harmony Foundation lack teeth and effectiveness.
Panel members agreed with the Working Group which examined the bill that was introduced in the Rajya Sabha five years back that it needs to be recast to provide speedy prosecution and strict punishment for such crimes and quick justice, relief, rehabilitation, compensation to victims and survivors.
The existing draft talks about three years’ imprisonment or fine, including for officials with malafide intentions, in dealing with such crimes.
Further consultations, including with legal experts, are expected on the new draft.
Food Security for all
The panel also reconciled the divergent views of its members and said that though time-bound universalisation of foodgrains entitlement is desirable, it should be rolled out initially in one-fourth of the most disadvantaged of the 200 districts/blocks, including some Naxal-affected areas.
While the Planning Commission will identify these districts, from April 1, 2011, these households will get 35 kg of rice and wheat at Rs 3 a kilo per month, with millets, dal and other items added to their food basket later.
The NAC’s Working Group on Food Security will now prepare a draft bill.
The panel also recommended differentiated pricing and 25 kg for other sections when the scheme covers the remaining districts/blocks. But the quantum and rate for socially vulnerable groups, including SCs/STs, would be that of Below Poverty Line rural households. Likewise for slum dwellers and the homeless in urban areas.
While the NAC meeting on August 30 will flesh out these proposals and assess the financial implications, the government will be asked to include nutritional support for the disadvantaged, including children, pregnant mothers and cancer and HIV patients. Also proposed are community kitchens in cities, destitute feeding, boosting agriculture and reforming PDS, procurement and ICDS.