Friday, July 10, 2009

'Food security law may hit the poor'- Times of India

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'Food security law may hit the poor'

10 Jul 2009, 0141 hrs IST, TNN

NAGPUR: The Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS) has expressed apprehensions that the proposed food security law may increase essential foodgrain prices by 30 per cent. Finance minister Pranab Mukherjee had in his budget speech proposed to introduce a Food Security Act under which every family below poverty line would be provided 25 kg rice or wheat at Rs 3 per kg.

In a letter to the union agriculture and PDS minister Sharad Pawar, VJAS president Kishore Tiwari has expressed fears that the proposed law may spike food rates up by 30% and may cut monthly allocation of more than 32 million poor families under existing Antyodaya scheme by 35%. The proposed Bill was imminent following the UPA government's poll promise of subsidized foodgrains to the poor. President Pratibha Patil too in her address to Parliament on June 4 said a National Food Security Act would be formulated under which each BPL family would be entitled to get 25 kg of rice or wheat per month at Rs 3 a kg, said Tiwari. Surprisingly no allocation has been made for this in the budget 2009-10.

Tiwari wondered how the scheme will be implemented without any funds although it would cost several thousand crore rupees. The draft Bill will be put up on the website of the ministry of food and public distribution seeking public opinion. He pointed out that already the Centre was providing 35 kg of rice or wheat per month to each BPL family. Wheat is supplied at Rs 4.15 per kg while rice at Rs 5.65 to over four crore families below the poverty line.

If the same is distributed under the proposed law it will reduce the monthly allocation to the poorest of the poor by 10 kg who will also have to pay Rs.3 a kg in place of Rs 2 that they now get under Antyodaya scheme. Hence, new food security law may turn end up hitting the poor, he said. The Centre has enough buffer stocks to implement the control order 2001 as per apex court order in right to food petition of H D Dua. But till date, the state had failed to address the serious issue of hunger even though there is a bumper foodgrain output and the government procured over 250 lakh tonnes of wheat and over 300 lakh tonnes of rice till July 3, he said.

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