Will coal fire cook Food Bill?


New Delhi: A day after law-makers celebrated the Indian version of friendship day, the Parliament is likely to see acrimonious scenes on Thursday over the missing coal scam files even as the UPA government gets ready to `serve’ the Food Security Bill.
The BJP parliamentary party is meeting ahead of the session to finalise and sharpen the strategy over both the issues. The BJP is likely to haul the government over the coals over the missing coal files and try to push the Food Bill out of the menu of agenda slated for the Houses.
If the Bill would eventually see the light of the day, it would be Sonia Gandhi who would open the debate, setting the tone for the crucial elections to States, including Delhi, later this year and the general elections next year.
The primary objective of the Food Bill is to guarantee cheap food grain to nearly 70% of India’s 1.2 billion people. If passed, the Bill would provide subsidised food grain to 75% of India’s estimated 833 million rural population and 50% of an estimated 377 million urban population.
India accounts for a third of the world’s poor, according to a report of the World Bank.
But the BJP and SP plan to move a series of amendments that may see the Bill slipping out of the Monsoon Session. But all that the Congress wants is to take credit for the bill.
The Bill envisages that the beneficiaries can get a total of 5 kg of subsidised rice, wheat and coarse grains a month. These can be bought at prices ranging from Re 1 to 3 a kg.
The state-run Food Corporation of India plans to distribute the subsidised grains through a nationwide network of fair price shops.
The government says it will spend about $4 billion a year on the programme.
The bill has been criticised by the opposition and some food security analysts. Many see it as an attempt by the Congress party to woo poor and middle-class voters ahead of the general elections slated for early 2014.
Analysts point out that there are no firm plans how the poor would be identified. The subsidised grain is to be provided to individuals earning less than the benchmark poverty line, set at Rs 33 a day in urban areas and Rs 27 a day in rural areas.
Economists fear that the bill would throw the tottering economy of the rails by worsening the fiscal deficit. 

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