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Food Bill: 67% of population may benefit initially

New Delhi: With delay in socio-economic caste census, the government is planning to cover 67 percent of population for the benefit of subsidised foodgrain under the proposed food security law.

According to highly placed sources, the UPA government wants to implement the proposed Food Security law by the end of this year as the country has overflowing foodgrains stocks.

Reuters

"There is delay in census process. So, we are thinking of using some criteria to exclude 33 percent of the population from the benefit of subsidised grains and provide 5 kg of rice and wheat to 67 percent of the population at Rs 3 and Rs 2, respectively," a source said.

Food Minister KV Thomas has discussed this issue with UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi as well as with Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, sources said.

Under the Food bill, which has been placed before the Parliamentary Standing Committee for suggestion, the Centre has proposed to cover 63.5 per cent of the population.

The beneficiaries are divided into two categories - priority (same as BPL families) and general households (equivalent to APL families).

The new line of thinking in the government is that the number of beneficiaries and food subsidy will rise marginally, but entitlement to priority group will come down to 5kg/person from 7 kg as proposed in the Food Security Bill, introduced in Parliament in December 2011, sources added.

The food subsidy bill will rise by Rs 4,000 crore if this change is made in the food bill. The foodgrains requirement would be lower at 61.55 million tonnes.

Under the Food bill, an individual under priority households would get 7 kg of rice and wheat at Rs 3 and Rs 2, respectively. A general household member would get at least 3 kg of wheat and rice at price not less the 50 per cent of the minimum support price.

Sources said that lesser number of people would be excluded in hilly states as well as in 250 poor districts.

The Socio Economic Caste Census (SECC), which was initiated in June last year by the Rural Development Ministry, has not made big progress in many states.

The government godown is overflowing with foodgrains because of record production and procurement in last few years.

PTI