National Advisory Council headed by Sonia Gandhi has been working overtime as think-tank for government and suggesting innovate and welfare schemes for poor people.
At present India’s population is over 1.2 billion and the country is beset with a number of economic problems associated with growth and development. However, unlike other governments in the past, UPA government and Congress President Sonia Gandhi are working in tandem to implement various schemes. It has been the philosophy of the Congress Party that while industrial and technological development of the country is must, the economic position of poor must not be lost sight of.
The condition of poor people also needs to be taken care of. With this object in view the Congress President has taken an initiative for providing Right to Food to the poor. It will be one of the biggest welfare scheme ever launched. Even the country like China does not have such a scheme.
The Congress President had asked the NAC to work on food security bill which has now been finalized.
The National Food Security Act, 2011 gives legal backing to the present PDS system. Despite limitation of resources for universal application the draft says that not less than 90% of all rural households and not less than 50% of all urban households will be legally entitled to subsidized food grains.
To ensure correct implementation of the system it envisages setting up of a seven-member National Food Commission, to be headed by a sitting or a former Supreme Court judge and similar State Commissions to be presided by a High Court judge.
The Commission “shall have all the powers of a civil court trying a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure.”
While legalising PDS, the draft Bill makes it mandatory for the government to maintain financial viability of FPS by ensuring reasonable commissions, salaries for the manager are provided in a time-bound manner.
The system makes it compulsory on the state to set up FPS for delivery of subsidized food grains within 3 km of a habitation. While issuing licences for these shops, it has advised State government to give preference to community institutions or public bodies.
The proposal suggests that daily management of Fair Price Shops shall be done by women or women’s collectives.
What is unique about the draft Bill is that it recommends tagging each unit of foodgrain with a unique number. Purpose is to track its movement from the stage of procurement to delivery to the ultimate beneficiary with a view to ensure receipt.
The draft bill envisages that the National Food Commission will be empowered to “suo motu” inquire into any complaint and has powers to impose penalty upto Rs 5,000 in the
first instance and Rs 100 for every day thereafter — until relief is granted — on any public servant if it is of the opinion that he’s been guilty.