New Delhi, Jan 17 (IANS) There should be an uniform entitlement of 5 kg of foodgrain per person per month to 75 percent of the population in rural areas and 50 percent in the urban areas under the proposed National Food Security Bill, a parliamentary panel said Thursday.
The standing committee on food, consumer affairs and public distribution, which submitted its report to Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, also recommended that state governments may be given the flexibility to extend coverage beyond the stipulations from their own resources.
Briefing reporters about the report, committee chairman Vilas Muttemwar described the National Food Security Bill as "revolutionary."
Answering queries, he said the government was expected to take up the bill in the budget session of parliament beginning late February.
Muttemwar said that Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) MP T.N. Seema had given a note of dissent on the report but there was "unanimity" among other members.
"Considering the current levels of production and procurement of foodgrain, the committee agrees to the proposed coverage of 75 percent population in rural areas and 50 percent in urban areas to be identified as a uniform entitlement at the rate of 5 kg per person per month under the bill...Nearly 83 crore population of the country will be covered," Muttemwar said.
The food security bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha in Dec 2011 and referred to the standing committee in January 2012.
Muttemwar said the committee received nearly 1,50,000 suggestions from various stakeholders.
The original bill had proposed covering 75 percent of rural population (at least 46 percent belonging to priority households) and upto 50 percent of the urban population (with at least 28 percent belonging to priority households) under the targeted public distribution system (TDPS).
It had said priority households will be entitled to 7 kg foodgrain per person per month at prices not exceeding Rs. 3, Rs.2 and Re.1 per kg for rice, wheat, coarse grains respectively. The bill had said that general households will be entitled to not less than 3 kg of foodgrain per person at prices not 50 percent of minimum support price.
Muttemwar said that categorisation for entitlement was "very complicated and impractical" to implement.
"The committee has desired that there should be a single category of inclusion with uniform entitlement of 5 kg per person per month and allocation of foodgrain to states should be based on 2011 population estimates which may be revised every 10 years," he said.
He said that members felt that providing 7 kg foodgrain per person per month in the bill may not be sustainable in the long term.
Muttemwar said there were also suggestions for universal entitlements without caps on coverage.
"Identification of beneficiaries is responsibility of states," he said and added that special care should be taken to ensure that deserving people were not excluded.
He said that panel had recommended that present level of central allocation of foodgrain should be maintained to states though the bill is likely to increase allocations of some states such as Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.
He said that estimated requirement of foodgrain with entitlement of 5 kg per person per month under TDPS would be 488.02 lakh tonnes and 80 lakh tonnes would be required for other welfare schemes.
The total annual subsidy flow under the scheme will be Rs. 1,12,000 crore, he added.
Muttemwar said the (public distribution syestem) PDS was not functioning properly in any of the states and the committee had suggested complete modernisation of PDS, computerising supply chain and installing CCTV cameras in storage warehouses.
On cash transfers, the committee said it may not be desirable to introduce the step for the present.
Mutttemwar said the committee had recommended giving rice at Rs.3 per kg, wheat at Rs.2 per kg and millets at Re.1 per kg.