The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) on Monday sought details of objections to the proposed National Food Security Bill before taking a decision on the Planning Commission declaring around 400 million Indians poor.
“We received a call from the PMO seeking details of our objections,” said Kavita Srivastava of Right to Food Campaign, a civil society group seeking food entitlement for all.
The Bill would entitle every below poverty line (BPL) family to 25 kg of grains, an Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) had decided. But following Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s intervention, it decided on a review and asked the plan panel to determine the number of poor in India.
“We’ve agreed with Suresh Tendulkar committee report that 37.2 per cent of Indians are poor as per the 2004-05 survey,” Planning Commission Deputy Chairperson Montek Singh Ahluwalia said on Monday.
For the latest figures, the plan panel will have to wait till the end of 2011, when the National Sample Survey Organisation will complete its exercise. The panel officials indicated that the government would like to wait for the latest figures before bringing in the food law.
In the interim, a revamp of the Public Distribution System is being planned. Only 40 per cent of the foodgrains under the system reach the beneficiaries.
CPM’s Politburo member Brinda Karat also said the food Bill will not become a law in near future. “The Bill will not be introduced in this session.” After its introduction, the Bill would be discussed in a parliamentary standing committee after which the government would have to re-introduce it, she told the Right To Food campaigners.
Karat, like her Left colleagues A.B. Bardhan and D. Raja of the CPI, termed the proposed Bill as a government bid to reduce Rs 55,000-crore food subsidy bill.
Montek, however, said Tendulkar report would push up the subsidy bill by 30 per cent.