In an exclusive interview to Asian News International (ANI), Narendra Modi said that he has written a letter to Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh on this issue and expressed his concern over the Food Security Ordinance in its current form. “I studied the ordinance in detail and I found a lot of important things which needed to be addressed and so I wrote a letter to the Prime Minister.
And in that letter I highlighted the casual approach of the Government’s Food Security Bill towards the poor people,” he told ANI here today. Modi said that the Government has only publicized this Food Security Bill claiming that it will guarantee food to the poor people but the ground reality is that this bill only confirms that food will be snatched away from the beneficiaries. “The Food Security bill is not a guarantee that poor people will get food, on the contrary it is giving a confirmation of taking away their food.
The UPA policy formulators have no idea about the poor and their conditions and that is why their party members claim that food is food at Rs. 5 and Rs 12,” he said. He asserted that this food security scheme would turn out to be an additional burden to the Below Poverty Line (BPL) families, adding extra expenditure and in a way ‘snatching food away’ from them.
“Because of this scheme, there would be an additional burden on BPL families and it will just snatch away food from the poor people. Poor families used to get 35kgs grain but, now will get 25kgs for a family of five. The extra 10 kilogram if the BPL family has to buy from the market will cause an extra burden of rupees 80-100 on each family, which means the BPL family will have an additional expenditure of Rs 1000 annually,” he said. Modi also questioned the Prime Minister whether his food security scheme fulfills the nutrition requirement of individuals.
“Prime Minister had expressed concern about the nutrition level but I want to ask him whether this Bill satisfies the nutrition requirement? Even the food given to children in the mid day meal scheme provides atleast 180 grams. And under the food security bill, the nutrition level for an adult would only be 165 grams,” he said. “An adult who is supposed to get 360 grams of food, you are only giving him 165 grams.
For a BPL family, you are not even giving half of what the calorie requirement per person is,” he added. He further said that this pompous scheme would never benefit the families under the Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) scheme. “In the entire country Antyodaya families get wheat for Rs 2 per kilogram, rice for Rs 3 per kilogram. This scheme has been going for in almost every part of the country for a long time.
But this Food security bill will not benefit any poor family, under the Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) scheme, the numbers would remain the same and the quantum of foodgrains given to them would also remain the same,” he added. Modi further attacked the UPA Government’s scheme on the grounds that the present Bill entails the state government to purchase foodgrains on their own, if the supply is deficient and said that it was the responsibility of the Centre to arrange for foodgrains and not of the state. “I am really surprised by this version of the Bill, and if there is deficiency of food grains in the country, it will be the responsibility of the state government to purchase foodgrains from somewhere.
The entire country knows that all laws relating to imports are with the central government. What will a small state like Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Pondicherry do? Isn’t it your (Centre) responsibility to provide foodgrains?,” he questioned. He also said that this Bill will be a violation of Article 14 of the Constitution and predicted that it will encourage regional disparities between the states who have been asked to identify families fitting into this scheme. Directing his question to the Prime Minister, he said: “In the food security bill, you have already decided the number of beneficiaries in this scheme and you are imposing it on the states to identify those families who will fit into this category.
This reverse method will never help this scheme.” “And if every state makes its own category, then I feel that you will be acting against Article 14 of the Constitution, due to which the Centre’s decision will encourage differences between the states and without thinking of all these, you were planning to take this forward in the Parliament,” he added. Modi also said that this bill does not stand firm on any humanitarian or economic grounds and it should not be considered till certain amendments are made in it.
“That is why I have urged the PM to call a meeting of all Chief Ministers to rectify the mistakes of the bill. We all want that the poor people in this country should get adequate food and if this bill fails to address these requirements, it should never be considered,” he said. Earlier on August 7, in his letter to the Prime Minister, Modi charged that under the Food Security Ordinance, "unworkable statutory responsibilities have been given to central and state governments" and the "number of beneficiaries has been fixed without specifying eligibility criteria and fix individual entitlements.
Between different states, there could be wide regional disparities". The letter said the ordinance proposes to reduce the entitlement of BPL families from 35 kg per family to only 25 kg per average family of 5 persons and added "this cannot be the objective of any food security legislation which reduces the entitlement of those who have been identified as being below the poverty line".