Food ordinance not delayed, no financial burden: Congress

New Delhi, July 5: There was no delay in bringing the National Food Security Bill as the UPA government had an entire year to implement it before the 2014 general elections, the Congress said Friday."Where
food ordinance not delayed no financial burden...
IANS July 05, 2013 18:10 IST
New Delhi, July 5: There was no delay in bringing the National Food Security Bill as the UPA government had an entire year to implement it before the 2014 general elections, the Congress said Friday.

"Where is the delay? We have mandate to govern till May 2014. We still have one year to implement the Food Security Bill. Don't link it to polls," Congress leader Ajay Maken told reporters here.

Terming its flagship social welfare legislation as a game changer in favour of the poor and deprived sections, Maken said the ordinance should not be linked to the five assembly polls this year end and the 2014 general elections.

"It will be a game changer. It will be a big boost for the poor, once implemented," he said.

He refuted charges that the UPA was a minority government and said: "I don't agree that we are in minority. We will be able to manage the numbers in both houses in passing the ordinance."

The Congress leader also dismissed the apprehension of Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav that the ordinance would harm farmers. “It will help the farmers,” Maken said.

"The food ordinance will help battle malnutrition and hunger. The food security ordinance will not impact fiscal deficit or affect financial management of the country," Maken told reporters at a joint press conference here with Food Minister K.V. Thomas.

The ordinance, he said, has been sent to President Pranab Mukherjee, and the government awaits his consent.

He said the ordinance would bring an additional burden of Rs.23,800 crore, which was negligible given the plan size of Rs.5.55 lakh crore.

"Rs.23,800 crore would be the additional burden on the exchequer after it (food security ordinance) is implemented. Out of the total plan budget of Rs.555,000 crore, an amount of Rs.23,800 crore is negligible and won't have any effect on the exchequer," he said.

Maken also added that the expected cost of Rs.1,24,723 crore in implementing the food security measure would have no adverse impact on the fiscal deficit target of 4.8 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) this financial year.

"There are reports that it is not possible to implement it technically and financially, but all things have been well thought out," he said.

Stating that the Congress was merely implementing its 2009 poll promise, the party general secretary said the legislation should not be linked to the upcoming elections in five states and the 2014 general elections.

Terming it a "dream of top leadership, including Sonia Gandhi, prime minister and Rahul Gandhi", Maken said the ordinance, which is expected to benefit around 800 million people, was the "largest social welfare intervention anywhere in the world".

The government opted for the ordinance route as there was no other option left, said Maken. He attacked the opposition for not passing the bill during the budget session.

"It was promised by the Congress party in its 2009 manifesto. The bill was introduced in December 2011, and we repeatedly appealed to the opposition to discuss the bill and pass it," he noted.

"The entire budget session was washed out. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had sought to evolve a wider consensus on the bill, but that did not emerge. There was no other way... when the opposition does not want to discuss and pass it," he said.

Thomas said the bill was first introduced in parliament in December 2011 and remained with the standing committee for a year before it was taken to the Lok Sabha for consideration and passing in the budget session that ended May 8.

Saying that the Congress-led UPA has the required numbers in the Lok Sabha to get the legislation through, he hoped the government would be able to pass the ordinance in parliament.

On the implementation of the ordinance, Food Minister Thomas said the government has already procured 60.2 million tonnes of grain in the past four years and would have no difficulty in managing the 61.2 million tonnes needed for implementing it.
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