Parliament committee proposes no increase in foodgrain entitlement in Food Security Bill

Friday 18 January 2013

States given the responsibility of expanding food security net to cover more households

imageThe much awaited report of the parliamentary standing committee on the National Food Security Bill was submitted to the Lok Sabha speaker on January 17. This paves the way for the government to push for its enactment in the upcoming budget session in February.

Contrary to popular expectations, the report has not changed the scope and amount of subsidised foodgrain entitlement in the bill. Rather, it has shifted the responsibility of covering more population under the proposed law to states.

The committee sticks to the current bill's entitlement, covering 75 per cent of rural population and 50 per cent of urban population with five kilograms of foodgrains per capita. The report emphasises the need of single category of beneficiaries with uniform entitlements. The committee observes that categorisation for entitlements would be complicated and impractical to implement. The committee also recommends that all the allocation of foodgrains should be based on 2011 population estimates which may be reviewed every 10 years.

Extending responsibility to states, the committee says, “The state governments may be given the flexibility to extend the coverage beyond the numbers prescribed under the proposed bill out of their own resources so as to cover more population, but not less population as envisaged in the proposed bill.”

Key recommendations
  • Limit entitlements to a maximum of 75 per cent of rural population and 50 per cent the urban population. But not more than 46 per cent rural and 28 per cent urban population designed as priority households
  • States should fund coverage extra to this maximum entitlements
  • The government should devise clearly defined criteria in consultation with the state government for exclusion of 25 per cent in rural and 50 per cent population in urban areas
  • Production of foodgrains must be given priority along with procurement in future to keep pace with the law's implementation, and thus the extra demands in future
The report stresses on evolving a mechanism of dealing with problems relating to food grains supply, its holding and upholding charges. The committee further recommends that the department of food and public distribution, the Food Corporation of India and the ministry of Railways may evolve a mechanism to deal with these problems.

The committee strongly recommends complete modernization and time-bound reforms in PDS. The committee has suggested computerisation of PDS operations and  transparent recording of transactions at all levels by installing CCTV cameras.

The committee has also recommended Centre's sharing of one time infrastructure cost of the state as per its financial performance. It has suggested division of states into three categories—A,B, and C—as per their financial health. Category A states are those that are considered financially well off and they would not get any financial assistance. The Union government may provide financial assistance to the extent of 50 per cent to B category states and 75 per cent to C category states. This assistance would be for one time capital expenditure to be incurred on creation of infrastructure, constitution of state food commission and creation of storage facilities up to the block level.

The state exchequer would incur Rs 1,12,205 crore as food subsidy in 20012-13 if this bill gets implemented in the current form. The committee suggests the department to consult finance commission with regard to additional expenditure required to be borne by the states and Union territories for the implementation of the Food Security Bill, 2011.

Move from news to views and get in-depth reports on issues that matter to you, every fortnight.
Subscribe now »

We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.
Unravelling the food mess

Unravelling the food mess

Reaching food to people who need it the most has remained one of the most stubborn problems in India. The public distribution system (PDS) is in a shambles in most parts of the country with the poor unable to get their quota of foodgrains despite the biggest build-up of government stocks in recent times. A chunk of the grain mountain is rotting for want of storage space and effective mechanism for releasing adequate stocks in times of high food inflation. Is it time we dismantled the largely corrupt and inefficient PDS and switched to food coupons or cash transfers as some economists suggest? Some states have introduced food coupons but there is no certainty these will work any better. On the other hand, the Food Security Bill envisages an expanded PDS to cover a larger population. Can the system be streamlined? Latha Jishnu and Ravleen Kaur analyse the different facets of managing the food economy and find that the PDS could become highly efficient if innovation and technology are harnessed to political will, as Chhattisgarh and Tamil Nadu did. These states offer valuable lessons in resolving the problems of procurement, storage and allocation of basic food items. Aparna Pallavi, Ashutosh Mishra and Kumar Sambhav Shrivastava, who travelled across large parts of the tribal belt, report on the extent of the problem that most destitute people face in getting their meagre rations, month after month. They highlight the urgent need to get food across to the large swathe of malnourished and chronically hungry people in the hinterland

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.

Scroll To Top