If the UPA government fails to get the National Food Security Bill approved in the Budget Session, it may consider an ordinance route to enact the bill, a political promise made in 2009 general elections.
The government has listed introduction of the food security bill and the land acquisition bill on Thursday’s business in Lok Sabha. But, the government’s top functionaries are not hopeful of getting any the key bill approved in the seven working days of the Budget Session with the Opposition belligerent on attacking the government on coalgate scam.
The Opposition allowed the government to get the Finance Bill passed on Tuesday but had refused any more cooperation. The scene in Parliament is expected to be stormy next week as well when the Central Bureau of Investigation would be filing an affidavit in the Supreme Court on the coalgate scam status report.
And if the Parliament fails to function, the UPA government’s National Food Security Bill through which it can earn political dividends and score brownie points over opposition will get stuck. The government wants quick enactment of the law so that before next general elections in 2014 its impact is visible on ground.
It may be recalled that Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme had helped the UPA a lot in coming back to power in 2009. The government believes food security and direct benefit transfer (DBT) can do the trick in 2014 elections.
The bill would give legal right to food to 67% of the population or about 800 million India, while 250 poorest districts, Jammu and Kashmir and eight northeast states would get 90% coverage. The bill, which provides for fixed amounts of monthly food handouts at less than half their market price, will cost Rs. 1.19 lakh crore annually. So, India will have to increase its spending on food aid by more than a third, given that the current financial year's projected food subsidy bill is Rs. 92,493 crore.
A senior UPA government functionary said, “we are keeping the option of Ordinance for the food security bill open” and added that such a move would send the message that that the “government was serious about enacting the law”.
As the ordinance has to be ratified in the next Parliament session, the government will have to get it cleared in the monsoon session, which normally started in last week of July. The UPA surviving on thin majority in Parliament may find it difficult to get the bill passed considering that the BJP may not allow the government to score brownie points so close to general elections.