New Delhi: An empowered group of ministers (eGoM) on food has decided to defer a decision on the draft food security bill till the Planning Commission gives a report on the number of below poverty level families qualifying for the ambitious social welfare scheme.
"Planning Commission has been asked to give the report on the number of BPL families that will come under the programme," Agriculture and Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Sharad Pawar said after the eGoM meeting ended after two hours.
He also said the ministries under his domain have been asked to give a report on how similar food security legislations have been enacted and implemented in 22 other countries.
"The eGoM will meet again in three weeks, when these reports will be submitted," Pawar told reporters.
The empowered group was chaired by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and attended by Deputy Chairperson of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Home Minister P. Chidambaram, Defence Minister A.K. Antony, Rural Development Minister C.P. Joshi as well as Pawar.
The eGoM, which had cleared the bill March 18, had not incorporated Congress president Sonia Gandhi's suggestion of providing 35 kg of rice or wheat per month to each family below poverty line (BPL) at Rs 3 per kg. Instead, the eGoM had cleared 25 kg of food grain to each BPL family.
Sonia Gandhi, who is also the National Advisory Council (NAC) chairperson, had urged the government to include destitute and vulnerable households, besides BPL families and those eligible under the Antyodaya Anna Yojana, or poorest of the poor, in the list of beneficiaries.
President Pratibha Patil, in her address to the joint session of parliament last year, had said the government would enact a National Food Security Act which aims to provide every BPL family 25 kg of wheat or rice per month at the rate of Rs.3 per kg.
The United Progressive Alliance-led Congress government had also promised it in its election manifesto.
The Congress Monday said there were no differences between the party and government on the national food security bill and both were working for the "most virtuous coverage" of the needy people.
Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi told reporters here that the bill was a revolutionary step and a legislation with pioneering scope. "Inputs from all sections should be welcomed," he said. (IANS)