The Food Security programme was launched in three states – Delhi, Haryana and Uttarakhand – by their respective Congress led governments. Handywork of Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, however, the bill could not be taken up in parliament with the BJP disrupting the proceedings on its demands regarding alleged irregularity in coal block allocations.
The government failed to pass the bill on the birth anniversary of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi unable to gauge the opposition voices.
While launching the rights-based ambitious food scheme in Delhi, Sonia Gandhi described it as “unparalleled in the world”. Delhi is among the first states to roll out the programme after the government got the president to approve an ordinance in June.
“We decided to formulate food security bill so that the poor do not remain hungry, their children do not sleep hungry and they do not suffer malnutrition,” Sonia Gandhi said at Talkatora Stadium in the national capital.
“The guarantee of food provided by food security scheme on such a large scale is unparalleled in the world,” she said in her speech beamed live by TV channels.
She gave away food security ration cards to women beneficiaries along with a 5 kg packet of rice.
The BJP did not let the Lok Sabha function over its demand for the prime minister’s statement on missing files related to controversial coal block allocations.
The party was dissatisfied over the statement of Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal made in the Rajya Sabha over the missing files on an issue that was being probed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for alleged irregularities.
Though the BJP did not say it was opposed to the bill, party leader Arun Jaitley made it clear that “files don’t disappear, they are made to disappear”.
The “missing files” pertain to decisions taken at various levels in the coal allocations where the opposition alleges large-scale corruption at ministerial levels.
The Food Security Bill – seen as both a major welfare as well as populist move designed to swing votes for a beleaguered Congress in upcoming elections – aims to provide subsidised food grain at prices much below the market rate to around 67 percent of India’s 1.2 billion people. The bill is expected to benefit about 800 million people.
The party is hoping that the bill, which was a part of the Congress manifesto for the 2009 polls, will bring electoral benefits just as the rural job plan, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, is credited with swinging the party’s victory in the 2009 polls.
The bill will cost the government around Rs.124,723 crore, the Congress has said.
The bill was first introduced in parliament in December 2011. It remained with a 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.
In the national capital, the bill will provide benefits to 3.2 million people in the first phase and later cover 4.1 million people. It will come into effect Sep 1 in Delhi and the beneficiaries will be get a fixed amount of food grain at Rs.3 a kg for rice and Rs.2 a kg for wheat.
Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda and Uttarakhand Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna launched the food security programme in their states. More Congress ruled states are slated to launch the programme in the coming days.