An expert group appointed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to examine recommendations of the Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council on a draft food security law will present its findings by December-end.
The NAC, which steers the UPA government’s social agenda, had drafted a framework for the Food Security Bill, which was presented before the expert group on November 26.
“We are looking at the implications of the proposed provisions of the food law, such as the estimated requirement of foodgrains, annual production and how much subsidy would be required to meet the obligations. We will submit our findings by December-end,” C Rangarajan head of the expert group and chief of the PM’s Economic Advisory Council told Hindustan Times on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday chaired a meeting of the expert panel. At the meeting, the panel heard senior ministers, including finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, food minister Sharad Pawar and rural development minister CP Joshi.
How soon India will fulfill its ambitions of making access to food a legal right for a quarter of its billion people (who live less than $1 a day), however, is yet unclear. It hinges, largely, on whether funds will be available to meet recommendations proposed by the NAC.
The Prime Minister’s call for the stock-taking meeting suggests an urgency in the government to wrap up the proposed food security law, stuck over issues, such as, how much of India’s population should be entitled for guaranteed foodgrains at below-market prices.
The panel will meet next on December 14.
The flagship food security law stems from the ruling Congress’s poll pledge of 25 kg of rice or wheat at a hugely discounted price of R3 for people living below the poverty line.
On April 2, the UPA government had withdrawn a version of the proposed Food Security Bill after it was found wanting by the Congress leadership. Hemmed in by fiscal constraints, the government had pared down entitlements.