Even as speculation is rife that the Centre may bring an ordinance granting right to food security to 67 per cent of the population living below poverty line, a key UPA ally and Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, quite significantly, said on Friday that he was in favour of a comprehensive parliamentary debate on the Food Security Bill. In other words, Pawar made it known that he was opposed to the ordinance route.
Addressing a press conference here, Pawar said, “Our party is of the view that such a crucial Bill needs to be debated in Parliament. The NCP is not at all opposed to the Food Security Bill, but is keen for its passage after parliamentary discussion. If there is a choice between ordinance and Parliament, I would prefer the latter.”
The government has been toying with the idea of bringing an ordinance to implement the Food Bill fearing disruption of Parliament would come in the way of the passage. Already, there is a sustained tug-of-war between the ruling Congress and the main Opposition BJP over the Food Bill, with the former accusing the later of trying to scuttle it for political reasons. But Pawar thinks otherwise, or so it seemed. For he said: “The Opposition parties are not opposed to it, but they want more (cheap foodgrain than what the Bill is promising) which can be debated.”
It almost sounded like a calming advice to the Congress and his colleagues in the Union Cabinet, like Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath, who are said to be pushing for the ordinance route.
Still what could be a little worrisome for the Congress and its chief Sonia Gandhi, who is desperate to see the Food Bill through, Pawar said that the government was not ready for the Bill. He said that both his Ministry and his party were of the view that to achieve sustainability in the implementation of food security at a national level, production and productivity of foodgrain should be increased.
“This can be achieved through ample availability of water and irrigation and also through the supply of adequate fertilizers. The government has already set up a separate group of ministers (headed by him) to make suggestions in this regard and carry out the programme accordingly,” Pawar said, adding the increased productivity would be required to cover up for low production of foodgrain in certain years.
It was clear that the NCP chief was reading out a cautionary note so as to stall any move to thrust an ordinance on the Union Cabinet before a proper plan was chalked out.
He, in fact, said that a GoM headed by him would be giving recommendations within a month on how to increase land under irrigation and water availability and steps to be taken by the Centre and the state governments.