New Delhi, Nov 17: Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, the head of the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM) on Food, has approved key changes in the proposed National Food Security Bill and the revised draft will be placed before Cabinet soon.
“Yesterday evening, the Finance Minister has given final clearance to the draft Food Bill. It will be soon placed before Cabinet,” Food Minister K V Thomas told reporters on the sidelines of an event here.
The key changes proposed in the Bill have been approved and the Cabinet note will be circulated for inter-ministerial comments today, he added.
Earlier, in July, the EGoM on Food had cleared the draft National Food Security Bill, which seeks to provide a legal entitlement to subsidised foodgrains to 75 per cent of the country's rural population and 50 per cent of urban India.
After consultation with concerned stakeholders and the state governments, the Food Ministry proposed several key changes in the draft Bill and those have been approved by the Finance Minister, Thomas told PTI separately.
The two major changes include: keeping an option open for supplying more than 3 kg of subsidised foodgrains to general households and widening its reach to include lactating women, destitute and aged people and providing nutritious food to children, he said.
“The cash-handout of Rs 1,000 per month for six months to lactating women would be extended to the entire country instead of 52 districts,” he added.
With respect to general households' entitlement to subsidised foodgrains, Thomas said Mukherjee has approved insertion of the word, ‘minimum', in the draft so that the government can increase allocation if production rises.
In the present form of the Bill, the Food Ministry had proposed that the government will supply only 3 kg of rice and wheat per person per month to general households at a price not exceeding 50 per cent of the support price.
Among other changes, Thomas said the Finance Ministry has agreed to remove the condition of extending the benefits of the proposed food security law only to general households in states where the Public Distribution System (PDS) is modernised.
“The present draft restricts benefits for general households to states having modernised PDS. Now the benefit will be extended to all states,” he said. The changes to be made in the proposed Food Bill were discussed with Congress President and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, he added.
The proposed Bill would cost the government exchequer more than Rs 1,00,000 crore annually in subsidies. Presently, the subsidy bill on food is less than Rs 70,000 crore.