Concerns on food bill to be addressed: Thomas

February 9th, 2012 - 9:06 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 9 (IANS) The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government Thursday said it will address the concerns expressed by the states over the proposed National Food Security Bill.

“The states have expressed some concerns on the food security bill…we will address them,” Food Minister K.V. Thomas told reporters after the two-day meet with state food and agriculture ministers on revamping the public distribution system.

Thomas said his ministry will pass on the views of the states to the Parliamentary standing Committee examining the food bill.

The bill seeks to cover up to 75 percent of the population and 50 percent of urban households and proposes right to 7 kg foodgrain per person, at Rs.3 per kg for rice, Rs.2 per kg for wheat and Re.1 per kg for coarse grains, to the priority beneficiaries.

According to officials, states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, which have a near universal PDS, fear the proposed right to food law could limit their number of beneficiaries.

The central government fixes quota of subsidised grains under the PDS for each state but they are free to expand the cover at their own cost.

Thomas expressed hope that the government will increase storage facility from 62 million tonnes at present to around 78.5 mt by 2015-16.

The states, he said, want re-distribution of storage facility.

Thomas said the central government is urging states to create more intermediary storage facility beyond that owned by the Food Corporation of India and the fair price shops.

Observing that almost all states are moving forward on modernising the PDS, Thomas said he will consider the states’ request for financial and technical help.

To ensure faster movement of grains from the producing states to the consuming ones, the food ministry is working out a special arrangement with the railways, said Thomas.

The food minister said he has asked the states to ensure that the minimum support price is paid to the farmers and all payments are made through cheques.

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