New Delhi: In the backdrop of suggestions for changes in the Food Bill, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday held deliberations with senior ministerial colleagues on the issue and chalked out an approach to be adopted before a Parliamentary panel which is examining the Bill.
    
"We discussed Food Security Bill and issues related to the proposed Act such as foodgrains availability and subsidy," Food Minister K V Thomas told reporters after the meeting.
     
He, however, declined to divulge whether an alternative plan, suggested by over 30 leading experts and economists, for easy and early implementation of Food Bill, has been approved.
     
The UPA's ambitious Bill, which seeks to provide legal right on subsidised foodgrains for 63 per cent of India's population, was introduced in the Lok Sabha in December 2011 and is currently being vetted by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Food.
      
Sources said the meeting, attended by Home Minister P Chidambaram, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia and PMEAC Chairman C Rangarajan, deliberated upon the government's approach before the panel.
      
The meeting assumes significance as the expert group (which included John Dreze, Planning Commission member Abhijit Sen) has proposed doing away with dividing beneficiaries into 'general' and 'priority' groups.
      
The group rather suggested giving uniform legal entitlement of atleast 25 kg of foodgrains to 67 percent of the country's population at a fixed rate of Rs 3/kg rice, Rs 2/kg wheat and Re one per kg millet.
      
This is in contrast to the government's bill, which proposes to provide 35 kg of foodgrains to priority households (BPL families) and a minimum 15 kg for general households (APL families).

Sources also mentioned that in the meeting, the Food Minister made a presentation on the Food Bill explaining the rationale for accepting some of the recommendations of these experts group.
    
The Food Ministry expressed concern over delay in socio-economic caste census 2011 on the basis of which beneficaries under the proposed Act would be identified, they added.

(Agencies)

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