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Abhitash Singh, Mumbai July 25 , 2013
KV_Thomas.jpgThe Food Security Bill will take another year to be implemented in India, and K V Thomas, minister of state (independent charge), ministry of consumer affairs, food and public distribution, said it would not be beneficial only to states where the Congress is in power, but also to others.

Excerpts:

The ordinance for the Food Security Bill was promulgated recently. But when is it likely to be implemented?
The Food Security Bill has been in discussion for the last five years. We discussed it with various political parties, but there was no agreement on it. So we decided to bring the ordinance for the Food Security Bill, which was unanamiously accepted.

After its acceptence in Parliament, it was sent to the president of India, who promulgated it recently. However, its implementation will take a year, following its discussion during Parliament's monsoon session.

Why did Tamil Nadu's chief minister oppose the Food Security Bill?
The government of Tamil Nadu offers free rice, whereas the Central government supplies the same at Rs 5 per kg. After the implementation of the Food SecurityAct, the Centre would supply rice at Rs 3 per kg.

So the Tamil Nadu chief minister's opposition to the Food Security Bill is not justified. In fact, the southern state's government should be happy that not only would its subsidy reduce by Rs 2 per kg (from Rs 5 per kg to Rs 3 per kg), but the quality of the grain would also be better.

The Food Security Bill, which cost the exchequer Rs 1.9 lakh crore earlier, is now likely to cost it Rs 1.35 lakh crore. From where will the government raise the funds?
Yes, the subsidiary burden on the government, which was 1.9 lakh crore earlier, would rise to Rs 1.35 lakh crore after the implementation of the Food Security Bill. But the country would definitely be able to absorb this burden for a good cause.

Some states in India have already implemented the Food Security Bill, so in what way is the Centre's Food Security Bill is different?
Yes, I know that Food Security Bills exist in some states, but they are not efficient. The Centre's Bill will be managed efficiently, and that is why we are ensuring that every Indian in general, and its   beneficiaries in particular, should have an Aadhar card.

Don't you think the Food Security Bill will make the beneficiaries handicapped?
It is a policy framed by the Central government, and has been decided by the Planning Commission, so the question of making the beneficiaries handicapped does not arise.

Do we have enough infrastructure in place to store foodgrains?
Every states can decide about strengthening their procurement system, storage system and also modernise and computerise the public distribution system (PDS) system. The Central government will help the state governments by providing funds.

Do we have enough foodgrains to serve 67 per cent Indians through the Food Security Bill?
Yes, we have surplus production of foodgrains. In the year 2009-10, our foodgrain production was 53 million tonne, which increased to 75 million tonne in 2012-13. In the coming days, it will reach 85 million tonne, whereas the country will need only 68 million tonne.

Let us know how the Food Security Bill is stoking up inflation.
The government is concerned about the rising food inflation. However, the rising inflation is due to various factors, such as the minimum support price (MSP) doubling in the last five years, the increase in petrol prices and changes in the consumption pattern.

It is learnt that the Maharashtra government told you that they would get a lesser supply after the implementation of the Bill. Comment.
Yes, the Congress-ruled Maharashtra government expressed its apprehension on its diminishing foodgrain supply after the implementation of the Bill. However, after analysis, it was found that the state would be receiving a higher supply, and that too at a lower price.

Don't you think that there would be corruption in Food Security Bill like PDS?
No, because all the states will take strict action agaisnt bogus Aadhar cards and ration cards. All the state governments have taken various measures to deal with bogus ration cards and have cancelled six crore cards in the last three years. The number of ration cards in circulation has come down from 22 crore to 16 crore in the last three years.

Comment on the quality of foodgrains people would get after the Bill is implemented.
The government is also working on the modalities to improve the quality of foodgrains that would be distributed under the Food Security Act.

Put some light on fluctuation in the prices of onions and potatoes.
Currently, the government is working on a export-import policy and has directed the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (NAFED) to procure these commodities during the peak arrival season and sell them to the state governments when they need them.

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