India’s Parliament approves controversial Food Security Bill
(AsiaNews) - After delays and criticism, the Indian Parliament has approved the
Food Security Bill, a decree that provides for the distribution of low-cost
food to 800 million poor. At
the end of a full day of consultations, last night the Lok Sabha (Lower House
or "House of the People") ratified the decree proposed by Congress
(the ruling party). In
the coming weeks it's up to the Rajya Sabha (Upper House or "Council of
States") to ratify the law.
The decree imposes a month's supply of 5 kg of rice, wheat and grain per person at tiered prices of - respectively - 3, 2 and 1 rupees per kilo. Supporters of the Food Security Bill argue that it is a big step towards the elimination of hunger and malnutrition, which affects two-thirds of India's population (800 million people out of 1.2 billion). For critics it is dangerous for national finances. The measure will cost 1.3 million rupees a year (23.9 billion dollars).
The government had already launched the food distribution program last week, through an executive order, but parliamentary ratification was necessary to make it permanent.
Significantly, yesterday Sonia Gandhi - President of the Congress - spoke to the Lok Sabha to support the Food Security Bill, of which she was one of the promoters. She hadn't addressed parliament in over eight years. "Some people - she said - ask us if we have the resources to implement such a program. I would tell them that we have to find the resources. The point is not whether we can do it. We have to do it."