Ahmedabad: Attacking Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over the proposed Food Security Bill, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday said the bill, in its current form, will push the country toward "malnutrition".
In a letter to the Prime Minister written on August 7, Modi claimed that the National Food Security Ordinance (NFSO) promulgated by the Centre, which is likely to be passed in Parliament as the Food Security Bill, has inherent flaws and deficiencies, since it fails to address both calorific and nutritional security of the poor.
"In a nation concerned about meeting nutritional requirements, it is a bill that will push the nation towards malnutrition. The proposed Food Security Bill will keep the poor hungry and snatch away his food," he said.
The Gujarat chief minister said that below poverty line families which get 35 kg of foodgrains at present, would henceforth get only 25 kg under the proposed Bill.
"Your PM's policy makers are not aware of commoners' plight, nor are they aware of their living conditions. That is why people from your government announce that we can get a meal for Rs 5 or Rs 12," Modi said.
"This mindset gets reflected in the Bill too. Prime Ministerji, you are an economist and the earlier you understand the economics of a poor man's meals, the brighter will be the possibilities of him getting food," he said in the letter.
"The most backward are not going to benefit from your bill. Instead, because of your new Food Security Bill, the below poverty line families are going to be burdened further," the Gujarat chief minister added.
"I have noted with deep concern that the ordinance proposes to reduce entitlements of below poverty line families from 35 kg of food grains per family to 25 kg per average family of five," Modi said in the letter.
Due to this 10 kg reduction, every family below the poverty line would be compelled to buy this quantity from the open market and under such inflationary pressures, such families would have to shell out an additional Rs 100, which would translate into an annual financial burden of Rs 1,000 per per family, he claimed.
Criticising the entitlement of 5 kg of grain per month per person Modi claimed the ordinance does not assure an individual of having two meals a day.
"An adult person needs 2,500 calories per day as per National Institute of Nutrition (NIN) recommendations, but your scheme proposes to give 165 grams per person per day, which would provide only 350 calories, which is hardly 20 per cent of his daily calorie requirements," he noted.
Modi said that even under the mid-day meal scheme, school going children are entitled to about 150 grams of food grain and 30 grams of pulses for one meal.
"As against this, an adult food insecure person is proposed to be given 165 grams for two meals per day. This does not address even calorific security, not to talk about nutritional security, which is the main objective of the Food Security Bill," he claimed.
"Approximately 100 grams of food grains provides 350 calories. As per this calculation, one person should get 21 kg of food grain, against which you (Centre) plan to give only 7 kg of food grains," Modi noted.
"You are not able to offer even half of the calories required by a below poverty line family. So how will the country improve and how will food security be achieved," Modi alleged.
"Prime Ministerji, you have created a fresh crisis before the country. Normally, the government's policy is that you decide that people falling under a certain criteria will be eligible, after which a survey is conducted, numbers are fixed and then it is declared that as many people will be entitled to get food under the Food Security Bill," Modi alleged.
"But your policy is such that you have already fixed the number of beneficiaries of this Food Security Bill and now you are asking the states to find out how many people fit this category. This reverse method can never make the scheme successful," Modi claimed.
The Gujarat Chief Minister noted that each state will have to frame its own criteria for identifying beneficiaries and if this happens, he said "I feel that you are violating provisions of Article 14 of the constitution."
"Not only that, I am surprised about the provision that if there is a drought in the nation and agricultural production is less, under such circumstances, you say that it will be the state government's responsibility to arrange for food grains, no matter from where they purchase it," he said.
"The entire world knows that it is the Centre which has the power to import," Modi added.
Alleging that the Food Security Ordinance 2013 has been promulgated with 'undue haste' and has major 'flaws', Modi demanded a meeting of all chief ministers to be called, before the matter is finalised by the Parliament.