As many as 372 million Indians will be categorised as poor in the proposed National Food Security Act, the Planning Commission said on Saturday.
<b1>It would mean that additional 97 million people would get subsidised food grains, once the proposed law is implemented, increasing the government’s food subsidy bill by around Rs 20,000 crore, to Rs 75,000 crore.
The proposed law guarantees 25 kg of food grains only to below poverty line families. As of now, 275 million poor Indians get up to 35 kg in subsidised food grains from the government-run fair price shops.
The new poverty estimate — based on access to food, education and health — will not change the urban poverty figure but for rural India, the number of poor would increase from 28.3 per cent to 41.8 per cent.
"It shows government wants to see overall development of rural India,” said a plan panel member, after the commission accepted the Suresh Tendulkar Committee report on poverty estimation. “Ensuring all poor get their share of the subsidised food will remain a challenge.”
The Right to Food campaign rejected the decision, saying “entitlement to food should not be linked with poverty estimation”. “We insist access to food should be universal,” said campaigner Anuradha Talwar.
The panel is expected to inform the empowered Group of Ministers (eGOM) on the proposed law about its decision this week. Earlier, the eGoM had approved a food security law based on existing poverty estimation but had to review its decision after intervention by Congress president Sonia Gandhi. It then asked the panel to finalise the poverty estimate.
“We expect the report to be ready by end of 2011,” Pranob Sen, Chief Statistician of India told Hindustan Times.