Cabinet to take up ordinance on Food Security bill today

The constant disruptions by the Opposition in Parliament had resulted in a delay in passing the Food Security Bill so far.

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The Union Cabinet is slated to take up an ordinance to push through the Food Security Bill, which is the brainchild of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, on Thursday.

The constant disruptions by the Opposition in Parliament had resulted in a delay in passing the Food Security Bill so far.

The government’s decision to promulgate an ordinance will make the Food Security Bill a law without taking prior approval from Parliament. This decision by the government has been strongly objected to by the opposition parties, including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Left.

Senior CPM leader Nilotpal Basu said, "A bill that's so important to national life is being passed through an ordinance. It's shameful and can't be a worse advertisement of parliamentary system."

Lok Sabha Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj said the BJP wanted the bill and was okay with a special session of Parliament, but were opposed to an ordinance on the same.

The government's calculation, however, seems different. Once an ordinance is passed, it will bring the bill on priority.

Since the ordinance is the same as the bill introduced in the Lok Sabha and already examined by a Parliamentary committee, there can be a debate straightaway. If the Opposition stalls it, the Congress will blame them for "acting against the poor." Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi has already blamed the Opposition for being a stumbling block.

The Food Security Bill seeks to provide food security to 75 per cent people in rural areas and 50 per cent in urban areas by providing subsidised rice at Rs 3 per kg, less than 10 per cent of current retail prices, and wheat at Rs. 2 a kilo. Detractors argue the Bill excludes a large chunk of people who need food at subsidised rates and so it should be made universal.

The bill also provides for Food Security Allowance in case the government fails to give cheap food. The Opposition however says this will give a back door entry to cash transfers in Public Distribution System.

The bill will guarantee at least 25 kilograms of subsidised food grains every month to a family of 5 persons. The opposition argues that many states already guarantee 35 kilogram of food grains for Below the Poverty Line (BPL) families.

Questions have also been raised about the government being able to manage the funds to push through this scheme.

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