Friday, July 22, 2011

Food security bill modified by food ministry

NAC idea remains intact, but provisions of bill that of govt

New Delhi: The food security bill that the Group of Ministers (GoM) has approved and which is to be introduced in the monsoon session of parliament in August has retained the spirit and basic idea of the measure as proposed by the National Advisory Council (NAC) but its provisions as prepared by the ministry of food, according to reliable sources in government.

Contrary to the general perception that NAC, headed by Mrs Sonia Gandhi, has prevailed over the government's reservations about bringing it in exactly the same form as desired by members of the NAC, which represents an influential and articulate section of society, the food ministry had modified it suitably so as to make it implementable. “The spirit behind the measure as envisaged by the NAC has been retained, but the NAC version was not accepted in toto. It is the government's version of the bill that will go before the parliament,” sources said on condition of anonymity.

The bill has been seen by political observers as a contest of wills between the welfare-oriented worldview of Congress president and UPA chairperson Gandhi and the reforms-oriented prime minister Manmohan Singh, and the decision of the cabinet to itnroduce the bill has been interpreted as the victory of NAC and Gandhi over the government and Singh.

But sources said that it is the government that has to implement the measure and it can do it only in terms that are practicable. They do not see it in terms of a tussle between government and NAC but as taking forward the NAC proposal in a form that is translatable into action.

This reveals that the government-NAC relationship is a fine-tuned one unlike that of the government's equation with another civil society group, that led by social activist Anna Hazare and its proposal of the Lokpal bill. Hazare and his associates are in direct clash with the government over the Lokpal. The NAC on the other hand seems to have worked out a nuanced equation with the government, which could be partly due to the fact that it is no less than Sonia Gandhi who leads the NAC.

It is felt that Mrs Gandhi understands the government's difficulties because it is her government which is in the saddle and therefore there is not much room for the NAC to take a rigid stance, or for the government to refuse point blank any idea mooted by it.

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