New Delhi:  A day after many states expressed reservation on provisions of the Food Bill, the Centre on Thursday assured them it will continue with the Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) and current foodgrains allocation in the revised Bill.

The Bill is likely to be presented in the Budget session of Parliament.

Currently, the poorest of poor under AAY are entitled for 35 kg of foodgrains per family every month at a cheapest price of Rs 2/kg wheat and Rs 3/kg rice.

"On Wednesday, we had lengthy discussion with states. Except for Tamil Nadu, others have welcomed the bill with their own suggestions...The general feeling among states is that AAY section need to be protected. We also feel the same," Food Minister K V Thomas told reporters here.

"States have also suggested protection of current allocation of foodgrains. We are almost agreeable to this, subject to the Cabinet approval," he said while briefing about the outcome of the consultation meeting of state food ministers on the proposed Food Bill.

Thomas said the Centre has not yet firmed up its views on providing legal right on the quantity of foodgrains, whether 5kg or 7kg per person a month. "These are policy decisions and will be taken after discussion," he said.

The panel has suggested single category classification with uniform entitlement of 5kg per person per month at uniform rate of Rs 2/kg for wheat and Rs 3/kg for rice.

Whereas the Centre has proposed 7kg per person to priority households and 3kg per person at half of the support price to general households.

On the percentage of population to be covered and subsidized rates of foodgrains under the Bill, Thomas said, "There was no dispute on these issues at all."

"By and large, coverage under PDS up to 75 percent of rural population and 50 percent of urban population, which comes to 67 percent of total population, is almost acceptable by states," he said.

On states' demand to leave the criteria for determining beneficiaries to themselves, Thomas said, "They will be given freedom."

He, however, said the procedure determining which particular section of population is to be included and excluded under the Bill needed to be worked out by states.

If implemented, the Bill is estimated to increase the food subsidy expenditure by Rs 20,000 crore to Rs 1.2 lakh crore.

Foodgrains requirement due to Food Bill will rise to 60-62 million tonnes from the current level of 55 million tonnes.

Assuring the Centre will bring in an "acceptable" bill, Thomas said: "If states have better laws to provide food security, we welcome them. Our feeling is that we are going to have a bill which is acceptable to all."

On Tamil Nadu's demand to exempt it from implementation of Food bill, he said, "My personal feeling is that Tamil Nadu will also come together and implement the bill."

The state governments' views will be taken on board while giving the final shape to the bill, he said, adding that the centre intends to present it in the last week of the first half of the forthcoming budget session of Parliament.

The UPA government's ambitious bill, considered as the world's biggest welfare programme, was introduced in the Parliament in December 2011.

On states' demand that Centre should bear additional expenses of transportation and handling of foodgrains, Thomas said,

"The centre will give option to states either to absorb or pass on the expenses to beneficiaries. Currently, some states like Tamil Nadu and Chhattisgarh are absorbing it."

The Parliamentary panel has recommended that states should be allowed to pass on the additional expenses to reduce financial burden of implementing the bill.

On Wednesday in the consultation meeting, some states like Bihar had suggested the Centre should not hurry in implementing the Bill without modernization of the public distribution system, which suffers from leakages.


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