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Rediff.com  » Business » Par Panel for rice at Rs 3, wheat at Rs 2 to all

Par Panel for rice at Rs 3, wheat at Rs 2 to all

Last updated on: January 18, 2013 08:59 IST

Par Panel for rice at Rs 3, wheat at Rs 2 to all

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A Parliamentary panel  suggested scrapping separate foodgrain rate and quota for poor and general public and said the UPA's ambitious Food Bill should guarantee 5 kg of rice and wheat to all beneficiaries at uniform price of Rs 3 and Rs 2 per kg, respectively.

At present, below poverty line (BPL) families effectively get 7 kg of wheat and rice at Rs 4.15 and Rs 5.65 per kg per month, respectively, through ration shops.

In the Food Security Bill, the government had proposed to change this by giving 7 kg of rice and wheat to a person at Rs 3 and Rs 2 per kg. Non-BPL families, as per the Bill, were to get 3 kg of foodgrain at half of the minimum support price.

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Photographs: Reuters.

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The Parliamentary Standing Committee, headed by Congress leader Vilas Muttemwar, in its report submitted to Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, suggested drastic changes in the Bill by seeking that all entitled beneficiaries be provided 5 kg of foodgrains per person a month at uniform prices.

The recommendations of the House Panel are generally not binding on the government. The government may however decide to accept the changes proposed as these suggestions match its own re-thinking on implementation of the ambitious scheme.

When contacted, Food Minister K V Thomas said: "We have not received the report yet. We will examine the suggestions in consultation with the Law Ministry and then go for Cabinet approval". He declined to comment on panel's suggestion.

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Photographs: Reuters.

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If accepted, the recommendations will benefit the general population in both price and quantity, while BPL member will get lesser quota than what was proposed in the original Bill.

Speaking to media after presenting the report, Muttemwar said the panel had suggested coverage of 75 per cent of rural population and 50 per cent of urban as proposed in the Bill, which comes to about 67 per cent of the nation's population.

The Bill, a pet project of UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, was introduced in December 2011. The report of the panel, which comprises 31 members, had only one dissenting note from CPM member T N Seema.

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Photographs: Reuters.

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"We have asked the government to give additional 5 kg of foodgrains per month to women during pregnancy and till two years after child birth," Muttemwar said.

Asked about lowering the quantity from 7 kg to 5 kg, he said: "The Committee found that entitlement of 7 kg or 11 kg would not be feasible considering the current production and procurement trends."

At 5 kg per person per month, 48.8 million tonnes of foodgrains would be required for PDS and another 8 million tonnes for other social welfare schemes, he said, adding that this quantity could be managed.

The annual food subsidy requirement would also be lower at about Rs 1,12,000 crore, he said.

The committee also recommended that a simple and fair way of setting state-wise exclusion ratio should be prescribed in a transparent manner so as to retain the existing coverage of population, the report said.


Photographs: Reuters.

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"Instead of two categories of general households and priority households, there should be inclusion and exclusion," Muttemwar said, adding that the coverage under the proposed law should be reviewed after 10 years and rates after 5 years.

On cash transfer of food subsidy, the committee said that cash transfer in lieu of foodgrains entitlements at this juncture may not be desirable. It recommended that banking infrastructure and accessibility to banking facility are made available throughout India before introducing cash transfer.

Among other suggestions, the panel has asked the government to modernise PDS and computerise supply chain.

Stating that grain allocation of some states would fall, Muttemwar said the panel has recommended that allocation to the states should not be curtailed. The allocation over and above this food bill should be made through executive orders.


Photographs: Reuters.
Tags: Muttemwar , PDS , India

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