Food Bill: Tamil Nadu demands exemption

While the UPA government is seeking to push its ambitious food guarantee law in the forthcoming Budget Session of Parliament, many state governments on Wednesday objected to several provisions in the proposed Bill with Tamil Nadu seeking an outright exemption citing lack of clarity in the Bill.

A meeting of state food ministers was convened on Wednesday by the Centre to discuss the National Food Security Bill.

Chhattisgarh CM Raman Singh, in fact, wrote to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh highlighting his reservation on issues related to quantum of foodgrain being guaranteed and ceiling on beneficiaries being imposed on states among other issues.

The chorus of opposition from states could create hurdles in the smooth passage of the Bill which the Congress wants to hardsell as the UPA's pro-poor initiative in the 2014 general election. "I insist that the government should exempt Tamil Nadu from implementation of the proposed food Bill and allow the state to implement the existing universal PDS as it is more effective. The Bill is replete with confusion and inaccuracy and there is no clarity on identification of beneficiaries," Tamil Nadu Food Minister R Kamaraj said. Similar sentiments over uncertainties on identification of beneficiaries were expressed by Gujarat as well.

Union Food Minister K V Thomas, however, played down the differences. "Except Tamil Nadu, all states have welcomed the Bill. Some have expressed reservation on certain provisions... we cannot satisfy all states. We intend to present the revised Bill in the forthcoming session of Parliament," he said after the meeting.

While states like Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Chhattisgarh were learnt to have pitched for universal PDS, many states were learnt to have expressed objections to cash subsidy to beneficiaries.

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