The food security programme is not restricted to the poor and the population covered by it is about three times the number of people below the poverty line, Parliament was told on Thursday.
"The government has decided to cover 67 per cent of the population under Food Security Act. The proposed coverage is not restricted to the poor only. As per Planning Commission estimates, 21.9 per cent of the people live below the poverty line in 2011-12.
"Therefore, the population covered by food security is approximately three times the number of poor," Minister of State for Planning Rajeev Shukla said in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha.
Earlier this week, the Food Security Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha. It aims to provide cheap foodgrains to 82 crore people in the country, ushering in the biggest programme in the world to fight hunger.
The ordinance will guarantee 5 kg of rice, wheat and coarse cereals per month per person at a fixed price of Rs 3, Rs 2 and Re 1, respectively. The minister said that as per the latest data, poverty in India had been reduced to 21.9 per cent in 2011-12. "For the year 2011-12, the poverty line at all India level has been estimated as monthly per-capita consumption expenditure of Rs 816 for rural and Rs 1,000 for urban areas."
In reply to a separate question, Shukla said Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes accounted for 36 per cent of the total population living below poverty line in 2009-10.
He added that the working group, constituted for the empowerment of SCs and STs and Other Backward Castes for the 12th Plan (2012-17), has recommended a number of measures for the upliftment of these communities.