Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday reviewed food management in the country with senior Cabinet colleagues in the wake of a deficient monsoon and the likely demand on stocks due to the proposed National Food Security Bill .
Defence Minister A.K. Antony, Home Minister P. Chidambaram, Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar and Food Minister K.V. Thomas attended the meeting. Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia and head of the Prime Minister's Economic Advisory Council C. Rangarajan were also present.
According to sources, the prime minister reviewed the food stocks' position and the shortage of storage space given a record 257 million tonnes crop production expected this year.
The drought-like situation in Maharashtra and Karnataka had already raised concerns of reduced grain production this year, said sources.
Keeping this in mind, the meeting also reviewed the food security bill, being examined by a parliamentary panel.
Sources said the prime minister discussed Plan B which involved enhancing the ambit of the food security net from the current 63.5 per cent of the population to around 68 per cent but reducing the quantity of food grain to be given from 35 kg to 25 kg per household per month.
The bill proposes 35 kg of food grain per household per month to be given to poor households, including rice, wheat and coarse grains at Rs 3, Rs 2 and Re 1 per kg, respectively.
Sources said this could be a win-win situation for the union and the states as it would allow the government to reach out to more people and yet save around three million tonnes of grain as requirement would come down from 65 million tonnes to 62 million tonnes, said sources.
Though as a result of Plan B the subsidy burden would go up by around Rs 10,000 crore from Rs 1.1 lakh crore projected at present, sources said this could be managed.
They said enhancing the number of beneficiaries, once data from the ongoing socio-economic and caste census was available, would also allow the states to revise their respective quota for the poor.