NEW DELHI: With the Food Security Bill coming under sharp attack from most States, including Congress-ruled States, the Centre could make it optional, at least in the first phase.
The Bill came under sharp criticism on grounds in the two-day consultations of State Food ministers here. “The states expressed serious reservations about the Bill during the consultations. Though we had expected it, the ferocity of the attack even from Congress-ruled states rings bad for the Bill,” said an official with the ministry. According to him, the government is considering several options to tackle the opposition.
“One option is to leave it to the states on whether to implement it, at least in the initial stage. Once the PDS reforms are in place, we can think of extending the scheme to all states,” said the official.
Another option is to implement selective provisions of the Bill, including the computerisation of Public Distribution System (PDS), prioritising BPL sector for food distribution, etc. “All these are loud thinking. A final decision in this regard will be taken only after the BPL census is in,” said the official.
Briefing the media after the conference, Minister of Consumer Affairs & Food and Public Distribution K V Thomas said that States modernise the PDS and creation of modern storage facilities will be the first priority. “The purpose of the conference was to provide a common platform to all the key decision makers involved in Food and Public Distribution System of India, from the Centre and States to arrive at an action plan to be implemented by the various agencies and to set timelines for completion of the same,” Thomas said.
When asked about the reactions of the States, he said the Centre is receptive to the responses of the States. During the meeting, the States had attacked the Bill, currently being examined by a Parliamentary Standing committee, on various grounds, including “lack of clarity’’, “lack of vision’’, “adverse impact on existing PDS system’’ and “violation of federal structure.’’
Several states, including the Food Minister’s own State Kerala, had opposed the Bill. Several other states, including Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, have claimed that they have a better PDS in place than what has been conceived in the Bill.