The Lok Sabha on Monday passed the National Food Security Bill, rejecting all the 305 amendments moved by the opposition and adopting the 11 introduced by the government, said government sources on Tuesday.
The bill aims to provide subsidised foodgrain at prices much below the market rate to around 67% of India's 1.2 billion people. The bill would thus benefit about 800 million people who would get rice at Rs 3 per kilo, wheat at Rs 2 per kilo and coarse grain at Re 1 per kilo.
The states have been allowed to identify the beneficiaries and the centre will bear the cost of transporting the grain, said the sources. But there are four major changes in the bill after it was passed by the lower house late Monday night.
The current grain allocations of 18 out of 35 states which were to get less grains will be protected at the prices applicable for the above poverty line beneficiaries. This amendment would cost the government over Rs 5,000 crore additionally.
The second amendment gives the states 360 days, in place of 180 earlier, as preparatory period before it starts implementing the bill.
The third amendment stipulates that ready-to-eat meals will not be provided to the children in schools under the schemes being run by the central government. Instead, they would be given hot cooked meal which would be more nutritious, said the sources. This change has been done after the social activists said that multi-national companies would benefit if ready-to-eat meals were given to school children.
The fourth amendment allows the state governments to set up grievance redressal commissions.
The Food Security Bill is Congress chief Sonia Gandhi's pet welfare legislation. The bill will cost the government around Rs.124,723 crore and will entail an additional burden of only Rs.23,800 crore. Government sources said Rs.5,000 crore may be added to the cost after the recent amendment.
The bill, part of the Congress manifesto for the 2009 polls, is expected to bring electoral benefits, just as the rural job plan, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, is credited with the second term that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) won in the 2009 polls.
The Food Security Bill was first introduced in parliament in December 2011. It remained with a standing committee of parliament for a year. Later the government brought an ordinance for the same which has been replaced by the bill in parliament now.
The bill is now expected to be taken up in the Rajya Sabha next week as procedural issues would take a few more days, said the sources. Once passed by both the houses, it would go to the president for his assent before it becomes a law.