New Delhi (Agencies): PM Manmohan Singh on Thursday assured the nation that the government was committed to bringing the National Food Security Bill, which would guarantee cheap grains to the poor, in the Parliament soon.

"We are committed to bringing before Parliament soon the Right to Food Act...," Singh said after inaugurating a conference of US think-tank International Food Policy Research
Institute (IFPRI) here.

Since malnutrition is specifically high amongst the poor and the susceptible, they need to be supplemented with social safety nets, the Prime Minister said, adding that the National
Food Security Bill will ensure this.

Food Bill and its controversy

The Bill aims to provide the poor a legal guarantee for cheaper rice and wheat and was a part of the Congress party's 2009 election manifesto.

United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi-headed National Advisory Council (NAC) is working on a draft Bill. The NAC has proposed a legal entitlement to subsidised foodgrains for 75 per cent of the country's total population.

According to NAC's proposal, the government should provide 35 kg of foodgrains a month to "priority households" at a subsidised rate of Rs 1 per kg for millet, Rs 2 for wheat and Rs 3 for rice.

For "general category" households, the NAC has proposed supplying 20 kg of foodgrains at a price not exceeding 50 per cent of the existing minimum support price (Rs 5.50 a kg for
wheat and Rs 7.70 per kg for rice now).

After examining the NAC proposals, the Prime Minister's panel, headed by PMEAC chief C Rangarajan, has raised concerns over availability of the foodgrain to implement the NAC
proposal. The panel suggested providing legal guarantee to the poor on a priority basis.

The projected requirement of foodgrains to implement NAC proposal is higher than the current average procurement of 50-54 million tonnes, Rangarajan had observed.

The government supplies subsidised rice and wheat through ration shops to Rs 6.52 crore below poverty line families and Rs 11.5 crore above poverty families. But there no legal guarantee to this at present.