The Cabinet will meet on Sunday for a special session, following an intervention by Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, to iron out last-mile hurdles in the way of the Food Security Bill, which food minister KV Thomas is keen to place before Parliament in the ongoing session.
A lack of consensus over unresolved issues involving states and financial worries prompted the Cabinet to hold back the bill on Tuesday.
The legislation, whose drafting was overseen by the Congress chief, intends to guarantee cheap grains to 63.5% of all Indians, with handouts for 75% of rural households and 50% of urban residents.
Hemmed in by fiscal constraints, the draft bill pared down coverage from an earlier proposal to cover 75% of the population.
The Congress president, fearing a logjam on the flagship bill, took up the matter with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday. She also held discussions with Thomas.
The bill stems from a pledge made by the ruling Congress in its poll manifesto during the 2004 parliamentary elections. “We have to provide some basic means of survival to the people, especially in these times of high inflation. The government has to shoulder some financial burden for this,” Thomas said, deflecting criticism that the bill could dent the government’s finances.
Agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, who has been critical of the bill, said on Wednesday that concerns of some states still need to be addressed.