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Revised food security Bill gives states more power

March 25, 2013 12:43 IST

The revised National Food Security Bill (NFSB) gives greater flexibility to states. For one, NFSB, cleared by the Cabinet last week and due to be presented in Parliament, allows states to choose the timing of launching the scheme.

For another, the revised Bill allows states such as Chhattisgarh to continue with existing food security programmes.

Some states, such as West Bengal, had expressed reservations over a single-date rollout on the ground that they would not be ready to implement it in a fool-proof manner.

The revised Bill could not be tabled in Parliament before the recess of the Budget session due to adjournments.

Parliament concluded its pre-recess segment on Friday and went into a recess for a month. However, the government hopes to pass it in Parliament in the Budget session itself.

The revised Bill also does not bar any state or the Centre from continuing or launching other food-based welfare schemes.

This means the food programmes currently operational in Chhattisgarh (which covers almost 90 per cent of the state’s population) and of Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh will continue.

However, the states concerned will have to provide from their own resources for benefits exceeding those mentioned in the NFSB.

The Centre’s financial responsibility will be limited to the extent of coverage mentioned in the Bill - 75 per cent of the rural population and 50 per cent of the urban population.

Meanwhile, the Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers has evolved a consensus that states be given the choice to opt out of Goods and Services Tax (GST).

Both developments, on NFSB and GST, point to the growing importance of states in the federal polity, say analysts.

Sanjeeb Mukherjee in New Delhi
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