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Centre wants food bill passed, states have doubts

Centre wants food bill passed, states have doubts

New Delhi: The Congress-led UPA government Wednesday expressed hopes of passing the National Food Security Bill in the Budget Session of parliament starting Feb 21 even as the opposition-ruled states opposed its provisions at a meeting here.

The food bill is expected to give right to food to around 67 percent of India's 1.2 billion population.

While Tamil Nadu sought exemption from the bill, Bihar, Orissa, Punjab and Gujarat wanted the government to modernise the public distribution system (PDS) before implementing the proposed law.

"Except Tamil Nadu, all states have welcomed the bill. Some have expressed reservation on certain provisions... we cannot satisfy all states," said K.V. Thomas, union minister of state (independent charge) of consumer affairs, food and public distribution.

"We hope to present and pass the bill in the budget people are ensured of its benefits at the earliest," he said.

Thomas was addressing state food ministers invited to evolve a consensus on the bill.

The proposed bill, part of the Congress manifesto in the 2009 general elections, is expected to be the flagship legislation of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA-II) in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

The bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha in December 2011 and sent to a parliamentary standing committee. The revised bill is being worked out on the basis of the panel's recommendations, Thomas said.

While the initial bill had suggested seven kg of foodgrain per poor person a month with rice, wheat and coarse grains at Rs.3, Rs.2 and Re.1 per kg, the panel had suggested five kg grain at the same rate.

Many states expressed differences on the quantity of grains to be given at subsidised rates under the bill and on who would be the beneficiaries.

While states like Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Chhattisgarh wanted universal PDS, Orissa, Kerala and Bihar said the quantity of 5 kg grain per person per month suggested by the parliamentary panel was not sufficient.


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