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Congress explores all options on food bill

Govt plans special Parliament session for bill’s passage; to keep ordinance ready as alternative

delhi Updated: Jun 02, 2013 02:18 IST
Zia Haq
Zia Haq
Hindustan Times

The UPA government will soon talk to all parties, especially the main opposition BJP, on convening a special session of Parliament to pass the proposed food security bill.

The Congress’s core committee met on Saturday, the second time in less than two weeks, to steer the food bill out of a gridlock.

The vote-winning bill, one of the promises made by the Congress when it went to polls in 2004, is a cornerstone of party leader Sonia Gandhi’s welfare agenda. It has, however, run into consecutive hurdles including the government’s inability to put it to vote.

The government failed to pass the food law in the Budget session due to the Opposition’s disruption.

On Saturday, the Congress’s top managers decided that parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath would open consultations with major parties for a special session. If that fails, the core committee decided that the government should go for an ordinance, an emergency provision to pass laws, pending Parliament’s ratification.

In its previous meet on May 17, food minister KV Thomas presented three options before the core committee: pass an ordinance, convene a special session or implement the food bill’s provisions through a government order.

UPA coordination committee, which comprises ruling coalition allies, will meet on Monday where the government will first discuss its intention to call a special session to pass the food bill.

Although the government can call a special session of Parliament when it wants, an agreement with the Opposition is necessary to ensure that the session will not be frittered away or disrupted.

The food ministry will also be ready with an ordinance by Monday, the source said. The food bill promises to give two-thirds of India’s population a legal right to cheap food.

If there is an agreement on the special session of Parliament, the government’s next challenge will be to successfully negotiate its way through possible amendments that could be moved by the Opposition.

For instance, the government proposes to provide 5kg of foodgrain per person per month, while there could be amendments seeking to enhance the ration quota.

If the government opts for an ordinance, which is immediately applicable, it would have to do away with the provision of a year’s preparation time to states to roll out the food bill.

First Published: Jun 01, 2013 23:52 IST