New Delhi: Amid talk of a special session of Parliament on the Food Security Bill, government on Monday said all options are open on the issue. The remarks of Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath assume significance as they came after a meeting of the UPA Co-ordination Committee called by Congress to elicit views of the allies on the key issue.
"All the options on the Food Security Bill on how to go ahead with it are still open. We will be considering that further in the days to come," Kamal Nath told reporters after the meeting. He, however, said no discussions were held on the proposed Food bill which is a pet project of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi aimed at giving legal rights to 67 per cent of the population over a uniform quantity of 5 kg foodgrains at a fixed price of Rs 1-3 per kg through ration shops.
Today's consultations came close on the heels of a more than three-hour meeting of the Congress Core Group two days ago in which it was decided that Kamal Nath will speak to other political parties and if they agree, a special session may be convened to take up the Bill. After the one-and-a-half-hour meeting, the refrain of leaders from diverse parties was that the Food bill did not come up. But it could have been just a stance in the wake of Opposition pressing for advancing the monsoon session of Parliament instead of just calling a special session to clear the legislation.
Pointing out that BJP is in favour of passing the Food bill with some amendments, party chief Rajnath Singh today asked the government to advance the monsoon session of Parliament for the purpose. "We are ready for a debate on Food Security and Land Acquisition bills. We want these bills passed with some amendments. The monsoon session be advanced for this," he told reporters in Hyderabad.
Rajnath, however, opposed bringing an ordinance on the issue saying it would be a "cruel joke". In Delhi, AICC spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed said Congress was committed to bringing the Food Security Bill and it was for the government to decide the modus operandi. "We do hope that the government will try to evolve a consensus," he said.
CPI has also favoured a law on food security but is opposed to the Food Security Bill in its present form, saying it is "defective and unacceptable" and it needs to be amended drastically after a comprehensive debate. "We are very much for a legislation which will ensure right to food security. We are not opposed to the idea of having a food security law," CPI National Secretary D Raja told reporters in Bhubaneswar.
Key UPA ally Samajwadi Party today joined Left parties in expressing reservation over the food security bill, alleging it is "anti-farmer" and will deprive them from getting their proper dues. "The day the bill is implemented, farmers will not get proper dues for their produce," SP leader Naresh Agarwal said.
He apprehended the government was looking towards mid-term elections by bringing this legislation. The UPA coordination committee meeting was attended by NCP chief Sharad Pawar, IUML leader E Ahamed and NC chief Farooq Abdullah. But RLD leader Ajit Singh could not make it as he was out of town.
While BJP is opposed to bringing an ordinance on food bill, the Law Ministry too has expressed its reservations against such a move. It has warned the Food Ministry that without putting a proper mechanism in place to distribute foodgrains, a law should not be implemented.
It said that without the list of intended beneficiaries with state governments in place, an ordinance should not be promulgated as it would make the proposed law meaningless. It also said a system of redressal mechanism should be ready before the ordinance - which will be the law of the land till replaced by an Act of Parliament - is promulgated, sources said.
Another strong view against the proposed ordinance is that legal rights to a citizen cannot be guaranteed through an executive order and it can be provided only by Parliament through an Act. The Law Ministry is of the opinion that the ordinance would be catering to a future development when the system is in place at state and district levels.
Without a mechanism ready for distribution of foodgrains, the Food Ministry has failed to show any "urgency" in promulgation of the proposed ordinance, the Law Ministry has said.