The Government intends to present the revised National Food Security Bill in the Parliament during Budget Session for consideration and passage, so that the people are ensured of its benefits at the earliest. The Bill, to provide food security for all in a rights based manner, is being finalised in the light of recommendations of Parliamentary Standing Committee. This was stated by Prof K.V Thomas, Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution while having final round ofconsultations with the states, here today, before finalising the Bill. He said that the States have to play a very crucial role in this historic and path-breaking initiative and urged them to strengthen Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS) including intermediate storage facilities at all levels in order to be able to successfully implement the Act.
The National Food Security Bill was introduced in the LokSabha in December, 2011 and thereafter was examined in detail by the Parliamentary Standing Committee. State Food Ministers™ meet has been called by the Centre to have final consultations on the Bill in the light of recommendations ofthe Standing Committee.
Full text of Prof Thomas address at the meet is as follows:
We have assembled today to discuss and give final shape to a historic and path-breaking initiative of the Government, which seeks to ensure food security in a rights based manner. After a wide ranging process of consultation, including consultation with States on more than one occasion, the Government introduced the National Food Security Bill in the LokSabha in December, 2011. The Bill was thereafter examined in detail by the Standing Committee, which has now given its recommendations. We need to finalise our views on these recommendations early, give a final shape to the Bill and present it back to the Parliament for consideration and passage in the ensuing Budget Session, so that the people of this country are ensured of its benefits at the earliest.
States/UTs have been our partners in implementation of TPDS and a great deal of role is envisaged for you in implementation of the Food Security Act. Your views therefore are extremely important for us before finalising the Bill. It is for this reason that we have convened this meeting.
The Committee, during its process of examination of the Bill, interacted with a large variety of people and organisations, representing different shades of opinion. It also visited States to hear out their views. Recommendations of the Committee are guided by the need for the Act to be simpler for ease of its implementation. It also attempts to address many of the concerns of States/UT. Overall, the approach suggested by the Committee appears practical, simple and easy to implement. Still, there are certain aspects which need to be discussed before taking a final view.
As stated by the Secretary (Food), the Standing Committee has made many recommendations. However, those relating to coverage under TPDS, identification of beneficiaries, entitlement to foodgrains and their prices are the principal ones, which require careful consideration. There are divergent views on each of these issues and the challenge before us today is to arrive at a workable, practical and equitable approach, keeping the larger objective of the Bill in mind. The Committee has also made certain recommendations on sharing of the additional expenditure arising out of implementation of the Bill. In their comments on the original Bill, many State Governments had raised this issue and expressed their inability to bear the additional burden especially on items such as transportation, handling & FPS dealers™ margin and the grievance redressal mechanism at the District and State levels. Committee has kept in mind the concerns of State Governments and made its recommendations accordingly.
As we move from a welfare approach on food security to a rights based approach, the issue of grievance redressal assumes great importance. The Bill provided for a three tire independent grievance redressal mechanism. Keeping the concerns of States/UTs on additional expenditure required to be borne by them, the Committee has recommended that States/UTs should be allowed to use existing machinery for grievance redressal. In this background, I would be particularly interested in hearing the views of State Governments on the kind of institutional structure that the Food Security Act should have in order to ensure that the entitlements reach the intended beneficiaries and those responsible for delivery of benefits are held accountable in case they fail to do so.
The Committee has also recommended that the Act should provide for allowing States/UTs, a reasonable time limit, which could be one year, within which they will be required to complete the preparatory work, at the end of which the Act will come into force in all States. If any State/UT is in a position to implement the Act earlier than the stipulated time, they may do so. This is a valid recommendation, as preparedness to implement the Act varies from State to State. However, I would urge States/UTs to utilise this window of one year to strengthen TPDS including intermediate storage facilities at all levels in order to be able to successfully implement the Act. I seek personal attention of State Food Ministers to ensure time-bound accomplishment of certain critical components of strengthening such as elimination of bogus ration cards, door step delivery, first phase of computerisation of TPDS, setting up or strengthening of State Civil Supplies Corporations, setting up of Vigilance Committees and ensuring their regular meetings etc. As you are aware, the Supreme Court has also from time to time passed orders for strengthening of TPDS on which States/UTs are also required to file their responses.
As mentioned earlier, we intend to present the revised Bill in Parliament in the forthcoming Budget Session and therefore this is last opportunity for consultation before finalising the Bill. I look forward to hear your views on recommendations of the Standing Committee and seek active cooperation in successful implementation of the Food Security Act.
Friends, now a detailed presentation will be made on recommendations of the Standing Committee, with particular reference to the issues that I have specifically mentioned above, i.e. issues of coverage, identification, entitlement, prices as well as sharing of expenditure, where the views of the State Governments are crucial.