Will pass food bill in budget session: Thomas

New Delhi, April 3 (IANS) The government will enact the proposed right to food bill, covering 67 percent of the population, in the second half of the budget session April 22-May 10, Food Minister K.V. Thomas said here Wednesday.

“We will pass the bill in the second half of the budget session,” Thomas told a Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) meet on “India’s food security and the second green revolution”.

“The National Food Security Bill will focus on nutritional needs of children, pregnant and lactating women, and will revolutionise the distribution system,” he said.

“It will lead to massive PDS reforms, including doorstep delivery of food grain, end-to-end computerisation, leveraging unique identity Aadhaar numbers,” said Thomas.

The food bill provides five kg per person per month at the rate of Rs.3 per kg for rice, Rs.2 per kg for wheat, and Re.1 per kg for coarse grains.

“The PDS will become more transparent and subject to grievance redressal at appropriate levels with provisions for penalties and compensation,” he said.

The food ministry has estimated that India’s population will touch 1.3 billion by 2018 and this will put pressure on the government to provide food security.

“We have to take care of the present food needs of the people. We also have to plan to ensure that the challenges that the population increase pose in terms of food needs over the years is also kept in mind,” said Thomas.

The minister said that India’s food grain production, which was 51 million tonnes in 1950-51, touched 245 million tonnes in 2010-11, an increase of five times within six decades.

The minister said he was confident that the government would be able to store the 90 million tonnes of grain it hopes to procure this year.

The minister urged the private sector to procure grain at the minimum support price fixed by the government, and said the corporates should help the government with creating more storage space for the grain.

Earlier, Rakesh Bharti Mittal of the CII said the government should consider roping in the private sector for creating additional storage space.

Agriculture secretary Ashish Bahuguna said India was food secure but farmers needed income security.

Ashok Gulati, chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, said the challenge before the government was to provide economic access to food to the large number of people.

“There is around 40 percent leakage in the PDS,” said Gulati, while stressing the need to diversify crops and get the markets right.

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