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This article was first published 10 years ago  » News » Food Security Ordinance not anti-farmer, a game changer: Cong

Food Security Ordinance not anti-farmer, a game changer: Cong

Source: PTI
July 05, 2013 16:26 IST
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Dismissing the talk about early elections, the Congress said the food security measure is a game changer that will provide right to cheap food grains to 82 crore people.

As the party and the government awaited assent of President Pranab Mukherjee to the ordinance, Congress general secretary Ajay Maken and Food Minister K V Thomas accused the Opposition of blocking the passage of the key bill in the last session of Parliament.

"This may be a life saver, life changer for many people...So delay even by a single minute or day, God knows how many lives it could cost," Maken, communication department chief of the Congress said, justifying the ordinance when the monsoon session of Parliament is not far away. Maintaining that it will take at least six months for people to feel the impact of the measure and its thorough implementation, party leaders said early elections make no sense.

"The biggest thing for any political party is to fulfill the promises it made in its manifesto. People will take into account that the Congress fulfils whatever it promises. This also reflects the credibility that when we are going to polls in four states, we have also fulfilled a big promise that we had made in our manifesto...This will be a game changer for the poor people," Maken said.

Thomas allayed apprehensions that there will be bottlenecks in its implementation. "All parameters have been discussed in detail with states, which have also been given copies of the bill as amended," Thomas said.

Maken said the Congress was "not running away from discussion" as both the ordinance and the amended bill will be brought before Parliament for a thorough discussion."

Before that there will be all-party consultations to arrive at a consensus, he said. Brushing aside political opposition, the government had on Wednesday decided to issue the ordinance to give nation's to-third population the right to get 5 kg of foodgrains every month at highly subsidised rates of Rs 1-3 per kg. Thomas and Maken said the food security programme, when implemented, will be the biggest in the world with the government spending an estimated Rs 125,000 crore annually on supply of about 62 million tonnes of rice, wheat and coarse cereals to 67 per cent of the population.

To a specific query whether the programme was of the United Progressive Alliance or the Congress, Maken said, "It was part of the Congress manifesto. This has been a long-cherished dream of our leaders. This is something, which should not be looked at from the prism of politics but from public welfare point of view." The minister said that in future the government could bring edible oil and pulses under the ambit of the Act as "just distributing rice and wheat is not enough".

Maken dismissed suggestions that the bill may not see the light of the day with the Opposition not taken on board. A senior party leader, who declined to be identified, said that no political party would dare oppose the measure in Parliament as it will be seen anti-poor. He also rejected the contention of Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav that the bill is anti-farmer and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam supremo J Jayalalithaa's charge that it was a political gimmick.

"We totally disagree. This is absolutely wrong. It is a long time commitment of the Congress and step by step the Congress has moved towards implementing it. When we implement it is said that it is a poll gimmick and when we do not, then we are asked why we gave false promises. You should give credit for the bill to the government. The bill is not anti-farmer. It will rather benefit them as large amounts of foodgrains will be procured by the government at the minimum support price," Maken said.

To a question on what will happen to this legal entitlement in the event of a natural calamity, Thomas said that in such a situation "instead of giving the foodgrains, we will give cash." Maintaining that required measures are being taken to implement the programme, Thomas said the public distribution system is being modernised

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