'Food ordinance to help battle hunger'

The Congress yesterday said the ordinance on food security, approved by the union cabinet on Wednesday, would not be a financial burden on the economy, and would help battle malnutrition and hunger.

“The food ordinance will help battle malnutrition and hunger in the nation. The food security ordinance will not impact fiscal deficit or affect financial management of the country,” Congress general secretary Ajay Maken said.

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The ordinance, said Maken, has been sent to President Pranab Mukherjee, and the government awaits his consent.

He said the ordinance would bring an additional burden of Rs 23,800 crore, which was negligible given the plan size of Rs 5.55 lakh crore, and thus won’t have any effect on the exchequer. Maken added that the expected cost of Rs 1,24,723 crore in implementing the ordinance would have no adverse impact on the fiscal deficit target of 4.8 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) this financial year.

“There are reports that it is not possible to implement it technically and financially, but all things have been well thought out,” he said.

Stating that the Congress was merely implementing its 2009 poll promise, the party general secretary said the legislation should not be linked to the upcoming elections in five states and the 2014 elections.

The government opted for the ordinance route as there was no other option left, said Maken. He attacked the opposition for not passing the bill during the budget session.

Maken said the ordinance gives six months to the states to roll out the right to food law and also to identify the beneficiaries.

Saying that the Congress-led UPA has the required numbers in the Lok Sabha to get the legislation through, he hoped the government would be able to pass the ordinance in parliament.

Fresh consultations with the opposition parties would be held to evolve consensus on the ordinance when it reaches parliament, the Congress general secretary added.

On the implementation of the ordinance, Food Minister K V Thomas said the government has already procured 60.2 million tonnes of grain in the past four years and would have no difficulty in managing the 61.2 million tonnes needed for implementing it.

Food security ordinance anti-farmer: SP
Samajwadi Party (SP) Chief Mulayam Singh Yadav opposed the food security ordinance, saying it was “anti-farmer”.

“There is a great risk that the law can prove dangerous for farmers,” Mulayam Singh said.

“Wheat, rice and sugar are the biggest agricultural produce. If these are provided at low cost by the government, who will buy these from farmers? This is a major issue,” the SP chief said.

He said that his party had received an assurance from the union government that the issue would be addressed. 

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