The UPA government will move a list of 10 amendments to the national food security bill, including altering the meaning of “meals” to exclude “ready-to-eat” lunches for nutrition programmes, such as those for school-going children and pregnant women.
This change is being interpreted as a move to keep out commercially prepared off-the-shelf meals, which food security campaigners have argued may compromise nutritional benefits and standards.
The flagship bill is awaiting Parliament’s nod but government managers have not been able to overcome the disruptions to pass it, missing a few deadlines.
The amendments to be moved by food minister KV Thomas, to the hotly debated bill show that the government intends to keep provisions for cash transfers and monetary allowances intact, despite demands from various parties, particularly the BJP and the Left, to scrap these.
Among key MPs who do not want the government to replace subsidies in kind such as food, with cash, include leader of opposition Sushma Swaraj, who has also moved amendments opposing such a provision.
Other amendments include:
If a state’s average consumption for three years is higher than what it is being allocated, then foodgrain will be provided to meet the consumption at prices to be fixed by the Centre.
The Centre has also added a new schedule to the bill to show state-wise allocation of foodgrain.
Moving away from the original bill that gave six months for the states to prepare their list of beneficiaries, the Centre will allow the states one full year for it. The ordinance also allowed a year’s time.
Congress sources told HT that during the meeting with Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav on Monday, Thomas explained these provisions and emphasised that the interest of the states is protected.