New Delhi, March 19: The Union cabinet today approved a revised national food security bill that seeks to guarantee subsidised foodgrain to about 67 per cent of the country’s people, but does not identify the beneficiaries.
The revised bill seeks to provide 5kg foodgrain per person every month. But BPL families and those under the Antyodaya scheme for the poorest of the poor will get more (See chart).
The revised bill introduces a provision enabling the Centre to revise the rate of grain after three years. Food rights activists have criticised this clause.
The Right to Food Campaign (RTFC), which has organised a dharna at Jantar Mantar demanding universal coverage under the proposed law, also decried the revised bill for not mentioning a time-frame for its implementation.
At present, BPL and Antyodaya families get the subsidised food from fair price shops.
A BPL family gets 35kg grain per month. Those under the Antyodaya scheme get the same amount at rates that are lower.
Although the revised bill seeks to cover 67 per cent of the people — 75 per cent in rural and 50 per cent in urban areas — the main challenge is the selection of beneficiaries.
The ministry of food and consumer affairs, which will implement the food security law once it is passed, is not responsible for the identification.
The beneficiaries will be identified through the ongoing socio-economic caste census (SECC) being conducted by the registrar-general, the rural development ministry and the ministry of housing and urban poverty alleviation.
A member of the Sonia Gandhi-headed National Advisory Council expressed apprehensions. “Beneficiary selection is crucial to the implementation of this law. How can they implement it before getting the list of beneficiaries?” N.C. Saxena asked.
Sources said the census would take three more months, after which a committee of experts headed by Planning Commission member Abhijit Sen will analyse the data to suggest modalities to identify the beneficiaries.
The financial implication on account of subsidies under the proposed law will be Rs 1.24 lakh crore annually against Rs 1 lakh crore now.
Activists of the RTFC termed the monthly 5kg grain allocation plan a “mockery”. “This means a person will get 165 grams of grain per day when the ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) norm is that a minimum of 14kg (462g) ought to be consumed by an adult and 7kg (231g) by a child,” said campaign convenor Kavita Srivastava.