New Delhi: The government is divided over bringing an ordinance on the Food Security Bill, say sources. Meanwhile, the Law Ministry has approved an ordinance note but has questioned how beneficiaries will be determined. The Law Minister has sent a note to the Cabinet Secretary approving the ordinance.
Some ministers like Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and Food Minister KV Thomas want the Bill to be discussed in Parliament.
While some other like Union Minister Kamal Nath and also those in the Congress party want the Bill to be pushed through using an ordinance. The ordinance has not been listed in Tuesday's Cabinet meeting so far, but may be taken up at the last minute.
Sources say the government has spoken to all the allies on the proposal and that it prefers an ordinance instead of bringing a bill in Parliament as it can reduce the rollout time for the scheme. The Opposition has criticised the government's decision to opt for an ordinance.
The government was earlier reportedly divided on whether to hold a special session of Parliament or introduce the Bill through an ordinance. The Bharatiya Janata Party has been demanding that the Bill be debated in Parliament and is in favour of advancing the monsoon session for this. Pointing out that BJP is in favour of passing the Food bill with some amendments, party chief Rajnath Singh had 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.
With additional inputs from PTI