NEW DELHI: The Food Security Bill - the dream project of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi - drew flak from all the states that participated in the two-day conference of State Food and Agriculture Ministers held here on Wednesday.
The states alleged that the Bill currently being examined by a parliamentary standing committee, “lacked clarity and vision and has an adverse impact on the existing Public Distribution System (PDS)”.
Tamil Nadu said the Bill was an “inferior” version of the system what some states already have in place, while Kerala opposed it primarily for “lack of clarity” and disturbing the existing universalisation of the PDS.
“Tamil Nadu gave a literal dressing down to the Bill. Facing the heat, Food Minister must be worried that his plan to convince TN CM Jayalalithaa of the positives of the Bill did not work out,” said an official who attended the discussion.
Tamil Nadu Food Minister R Kamraj attacked the Bill saying it was lacking in several areas compared to the Universal Public Distribution System (UPDS) being implemented for several decades in the state.
According to him, the UPDS adopted by the state covers the entire population of Tamil Nadu and there was no dichotomy between urban and rural population.
On the proposed extension of nutritional support and free meals to women and children in the Bill, Kamraj said that the state had a more exhaustive scheme than the one being proposed in the Bill. Kerala Minister Shibu Baby John objected to the poverty estimate put forward by the Bill. Speaking against the clause that “state-wise distribution should be done by the Central Government”, he said that “the basis adopted by the Planning Commission for the determination of the BPL families was a statistical estimate and did not reveal true levels of poverty in the state.
Bihar raised the issue of federalism and criticised the Bill on the grounds that it was being unilaterally imposed.
“The Bill incurs a substantial financial burden on the state government,” it said.