NEW DELHI: The National Advisory Council, headed by Ms Sonia Gandhi on Saturday recommended to the government to grant differential legal entitlement of foodgrains to nearly 800 million people through a reformed Public Distribution System (PDS) network from the next financial year.
The NAC also decided to set aside the Below Poverty Line (BPL) criteria and suggested two broad categories – priority and general – eligible for legal foodgrain entitlement under the proposed food security law.
As per the recommendations, those under the ‘priority’ category will have a monthly entitlement of Rs 35 kg foodgrains at a subsidised price of Re one per kg for millets, Rs two per kg for wheat and Rs three per kg for rice. The ‘general’ category households will have a legal monthly entitlement of 20 kg of foodgrains at a price not exceeding 50 per cent of the Minimum Support Price.
The recommendations were finalised at the sixth meeting of the Council chaired by Ms Gandhi here on Saturday. “We are obviating the need to look at the BPL data. Starting from the top we have decided to knock off 15 per cent of the most affluent section from the rural areas and 60 per cent from the urban areas and including the rest under the food security net,” Mr Narendra Jadhav, member of the NAC told a press conference here. He said that the NAC has recommended implementation of the first phase of food security law from the beginning of next financial year and plan for coverage of the entire country by 2014.
Mr Jadhav said the first phase of the food security law may cost the exchequer an additional Rs 15,137 crore in food subsidies. After the implementation of the final phase, the additional cost would be Rs 23,231 crore. The government doles out food subsidies worth Rs 56,700 crore every year.
Some other important components of the Food Security Bill recommended by the NAC include legal entitlements for child and maternal nutrition, as well as for community kitchens and programmes for feeding the destitute and vulnerable groups. The NAC has also recommended measures for revitalising agriculture, diversifying the commodities available under PDS, ensuring universal access to safe water and proper sanitation.
It has also suggested universalising primary healthcare, extending nutrition and health support to adolescent girls, strengthening the school health programme, the programme for Vitamin A, iodine and iron supplementation and the national programme for creches. The NAC has also suggested complete overhaul of the PDS and is examining proposals for reforms in the network.