New Delhi: Time is running out for the United Progessive Alliance government to get its Chairperson Sonia Gandhi's pet project - the Food Security Bill - to be passed in Parliament. Only seven working are left for the Monsoon Session to end and two previous attempts to debate the bill in the Lok Sabha have been foiled by the Opposition.
The Union Cabinet will meet later on Thursday to approve amendments to the bill to ensure its smooth passage.
However, the Bharatiya Janata Party has made it clear that it will not let Parliament run until Prime Minister Manmohan Singh explains how crucial files connected to the alleged illegal allocation of coal blocks went missing.
The BJP had on earlier occasions while raising the 2G scam and Railway Board recruitment scam also demanded that the Prime Minister make a statement in Parliament. Even though Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal had spoken on the issue, the opposition is demanding the Prime Minister's reply.
The UPA wanted the Food Bill to be passed in Lok Sabha on August 20, which is late Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi's birth anniversary. Even though the bill could not be passed, the scheme has been already unveiled in Delhi, Haryana and Uttarakhand.
The Congress is hoping that the bill will prove to be a game changeer during the the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
The bill entitles 67 per cent of the population of 5 kilograms per person rice, wheat and millets at Rs 3, Rs 2 and Rs 1 respectively. Poorest of the poor families will continue to receive 35 kilograms per household per month. Under the bill, pregnant and lactating women will get additional Rs 6000. Children between 6 months and 14 years will be entitled to free ration, hot cooked meal.
According to the bill, the existing allocations to states will be protected. The estimated annual food grain requirement is 612.3 lakh tonnes and total expenditure is Rs 1,24,724 crores. The state governments are free to frame their own criteria or use the SECC to identify beneficiaries.