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Indian Parliament passes Food Security Bill
August 26, 2013, 5:19 pm

According to UN figures, India is home to a quarter of the world’s poor, inspite of being the world’s second largest producer of agricultural goods, including rice and wheat [Getty Images]

According to UN figures, India is home to a quarter of the world’s poor, inspite of being the world’s second largest producer of agricultural goods, including rice and wheat [Getty Images]

The Food Security Bill, an initiative aimed at making availability of food at an affordable cost a legal right for most of its citizens has been passed by the lower house of the Indian Parliament on Monday.

As per the provisions of the bill, over 67 per cent of the country’s population would get 5 kg of grains a month at Rs. 1-3 (around 0.015- 0.045 dollars) per kg.

The government had already launched the $22 million food security ordinance, resorting to an executive order to implement the programme earlier in July.

A study released in 2012 by the Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh, revealed that 42 per cent of Indian children are suffering from malnutrition, which manifests directly from abject poverty.

Singh had observed that “despite impressive growth in our GDP, the level of under-nutrition in the country is unacceptably high”.

“There are nearly 160 million children in the country below the age of six years. The problem of malnutrition is a matter of national shame,” he had asserted.

According to UN figures, India is home to a quarter of the world’s poor, inspite of being the world’s second largest producer of agricultural goods, including rice and wheat.

Critics of the food bill have, however, raised concerns over the burden on the state even as the fiscal deficit widens.

Many have also raised doubts over whether India’s current public distribution system (PDS), widely seen as inefficient and corruption-prone, would be able to make the food bill benefit the poor.

The eastern Indian state of Chattisgarh has already adopted a food security scheme which covers 90 per cent of the state’s population.

The national food security bill aims to provide subsidised food grain to around 800 million people.

“This is the first time in the world, food is given as the right,” Indian Food Minister K.V. Thomas said while introducing the bill in the Indian Parliament.

According to World Bank estimates, the number of poor in India dropped to 359 million in 2009-2010 from 419 million in 2004-2005.

The bill is now slated to get procedural assent from the upper house and the Indian President, after which it will be ratified as law.

 

The BRICS Post 

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