Sonia’s Empowerment Revolution
‘We are open to constructive criticism; we must rise above differences to pass this. Our goal in the near future should be to wipe out hunger and malnutrition’, said Sonia Gandhi
Nikita Kochhar Delhi
After lingering in the corridors of power for months, and after much struggle and debate, the much awaited National Food Security Bill, 2013 was passed by the Lok Sabha on Monday evening. The bill aims to provide subsidised food grains to around 67 per cent of India's 1.2 billion people. The bill is believed to be ‘politically correct’ by some opposition parties, since it helps diffuse the reputation of the ruling party, badly tainted due to several scams and inflated food prices.
The bill, the implementation of which would cost around Rs 1.3 lakh crore, will make it lawfully accountable to give 67 per cent of the population, including 75 per cent rural and 50 per cent urban population, subsidised food grains under the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS). A beneficiary will be entitled to 5 kg of rice, wheat or coarse cereals at Rs 3, Rs 2 and Re 1 per kg a month, respectively. These rates would be valid for three years.
The bill also has special provisions for women, whereby every pregnant woman and lactating mother would get free meals during pregnancy till six months post child birth. They will also get a maternity benefit of Rs 6, 000 in instalments. The scheme ensures free meals for children up to 14 years of age.
In the case of non-supply of food grains, states will have to pay food security allowance to beneficiaries. The beneficiaries will be identified by the states based on parameters prescribed by the Union government.
“There is a need to improve PDS and plug leakage for the success of this act. The food bill is a chance for India to take full responsibility of food security of its citizens.”
UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi called it a “historic step” which would bring about “empowerment revolution” to the poorest and marginalised sections of our society. "We had promised food security in 2009. I am happy to announce we are fulfilling that promise. It is my fervent appeal that we shall pass this unanimously. We are open to constructive criticism; we must rise above differences to pass this. Our goal in the near future should be to wipe out hunger and malnutrition," said Sonia Gandhi.
Several demands to amend the proposed bill kept rumbling in the house. The solicitations were as follows: “It's an incomplete food bill with no provisions for building infrastructure,” stated the Akali Dal. “The poor should be given food for free, not at Rs 3 per kg,” demanded AIADMK; the BJD said, “The food bill should give flexibility to states on how to distribute food grains. The bill's targeted approach will exclude the marginalized and lead to corruption.” The DMK raised the issue that “the Centre must take care of states on the food bill since they run the PDS.” The amendments moved by the opposition touched minute aspects of the law like inclusion or exclusion of tax payers as beneficiaries. The Left parties wanted the food bill to cover all sections of society, including those listed in the BPL and APL categories.