Congress says BJP stalling passage of Food Security, Land Acquisition Bills in Parliament

Last Updated: Tue, May 07, 2013 12:40 hrs

Accusing the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and other opposition parties of stalling the passage of key bills in Parliament, Congress Party spokesman Sandeep Dikshit on Tuesday warned that any further delay could affect the socio-economic welfare of the people of the country.

Addressing a news conference here, Dikshit said that key bills like the Food Security Bill and the Land Acquisition Bill were pending in Parliament for a long time, and added that there was nothing left to discuss in these bills.

"The BJP is stopping these bills from being passed, I criticise it. I want them to support the bills. Even the Left parties are supporting the BJP. I request them to come forward and support us to pass these bills. I ask that how can we neglect public welfare for our politics," asked Dikshit.

"This is a common bill. If you are a responsible opposition, then come forward and let the bill be passed. We can always discuss and sort out our political differences later and after the bills are passed," he added.

Dikshit's views came hours after Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Manish Tewari had expressed confidence that the Food Security Bill will be passed by Parliament.

"The Food Security Bill is a landmark legislation to provide foodgrains to those 67 per cent of our countrymen who cannot afford to buy them. Once the Bill is enacted, the poor people will get food at the lowest imaginable prices," he told mediapersons outside Parliament.

Tewari regretted the continuous logjam in Parliament, and urged the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to let the Parliament function in the interest of the poor in the country.

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Yashwant Sinha, however, said that the government was trying to divert the attention of the people from various scams in which it is embroiled.

"Some people might remember that they had adopted the same approach during 1989 elections and there was chaos due to Bofors scam. They had introduced 73rd and 74th amendment and when it was not passed in Rajya Sabha, they said that the opposition obstructed the steps taken by them to strengthen democracy at the grass root level," said Sinha.

"They lost the elections despite the claims made by them. The main issue today is corruption and there can be no compromise on it," he added.

The main opposition party has said that it will not allow the Congress-led UPA Government to push its important bills in Parliament till the resignation Union Law and Justice Minister Ashwani Kumar and Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal.

Dikshit said: " We are following what Manish Tewari said. It was never put to vote. Neither the speaker called for voting, nor was the minister called for voting. Discussions is still going on, but if you won't let the parliament continue, then how can we discuss. The BJP politicising it. They are not letting us pass the bill."

"Both bills are more important than politics," he said.

Food and Public Distribution System Minister Professor K V Thomas moved the National Food Security Bill 2011 in the Lok Sabha on May 2 amidst noisy scenes.

The Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha in December,2011. After being examined by the Standing Committee, it went back to the Cabinet with fresh amendments and was tabled again in the lower house on March 22, the last day of the first part of the Budget session.

The amendments in the Bill are mainly aimed at providing a simpler framework and more flexibility to the states besides lowering their financial burden.

Implementation of the National Food Security Bill, aimed at providing legal entitlement to food to around 67 per cent of the population, is likely to cost the exchequer around Rs 1.23 lakh crore.

The National Food Security Bill, 2011, considered to be the world"s largest experiment in ensuring food security to poor, has been a key project of Congress president Sonia Gandhi. It hopes to meet the food needs of 75 percent of rural households and 50 percent of urban households.

The bill classifies all entitled households as "general" and "priority".

At least 46 percent of rural households and 28 percent of urban households would be designated as "priority".

Every person belonging to a "priority household" will be provided with seven kilograms of grain per month, comprising rice, wheat and coarse grain. Rice will be provided at Rs.3, wheat at Rs.2 and coarse grain at Rs. 1 per kg.

Others belonging to the "general category" would be entitled to not less than three kilogram of grain per month at a rate not exceeding 50 percent of the minimum support price.

Once passed, the food subsidy bill was expected to rise to Rs.95,000 crore. Initial estimates pegged the increase in subsidy at nearly Rs.28,000 crore, but this has been revised to between Rs.21,000 crore to Rs. 23,000 crore.

The bill's financial memorandum estimates the total annual expenditure on food subsidy under the targeted public distribution system at about Rs.79,800 crore.

Experts maintain that the annual increase would be to the tune of Rs.27,500 crore. The total financial liability to implement the law is expected to be Rs 3.5 lakh crore, with funds being required to raise agriculture production, create storage space and publicity.

A sum of roughly Rs 1,11,000 crore would be required to boost farm output with grain requirement increasing, on account of this intervention, from 55 million tonnes to 61 million tonnes annually.

Thomas stressed that "this Rs 1,10,600 crore is not an additional burden. We need to invest in agriculture to boost production anyway".

The proposed law entitles every pregnant woman and lactating mother to meal free of cost during pregnancy and six months after childbirth. Cash benefits of Rs.1,000 per month to meet increased food requirements of pregnant women would be provided for the first six months of pregnancy. At Rs 1,000 per month and covering 2.25 crore women, an expenditure of nearly Rs. 13,500 crore has been estimated.

This will be borne by the central government and the states. (ANI)

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