HindustanTimes Mon,29 Dec 2014

Vote-catcher food security bill faces big delay

Nagendar Sharma and Chetan Chauhan, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, May 14, 2013
First Published: 19:12 IST(14/5/2013) | Last Updated: 01:32 IST(15/5/2013)

The proposed move to make the food security bill a reality soon through an ordinance appears to have fizzled out with both the law ministry and the Congress opposing any hasty steps on such a crucial legislation.


The proposal to take the ordinance route was gaining momentum within the government following two unsuccessful attempts to get the bill passed during the second half of the budget session that ended on May 8.

The bill - which aims to give two-thirds of Indians, or over 800 million people, a legal right to subsidised food - is a pet project of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi.

Though some key ministers were in favour of promulgating an ordinance for its immediate implementation, considering its populist tone and with general elections just a year away, the law ministry was against it.

In negotiations with the food ministry, its officials pointed out that the ordinance would be meaningless given the lack of preparedness in a majority of states.

Law ministry sources said latest data from the states on the number of beneficiary families and on grievance redressal forums at the district and state levels was a pre-condition for the ordinance to be promulgated.

"An ordinance comes into effect the moment the President signs it and it has to be ratified by Parliament during its very next session. In this case, the problem is that the ordinance would be catering to a future development, which runs contrary to law," said a ministry official.

It was felt that the impact of the proposed law would be seen a good three to six months after its enactment.

HT has learnt that an influential section within the Congress was also not in favour of implementing the food security law without a proper debate in Parliament.

Party sources said there should be "minimum consensus" on a legislation of such importance, the impact of which would be felt throughout the country, and therefore an ordinance may not be the right way of implementing it.      

However, rural development minister Jairam Ramesh said all options were open on pushing the food security bill as well as the land acquisition bill through, though he preferred that they be debated and discussed in Parliament.
"These two bills were part of our manifesto. There were many amendments made on suggestions from the Opposition and other parties. It is unfortunate that the bills have not been passed," he said.

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