Lok Sabha on Monday passed the Food Security Bill after considering all the amendments, with the Opposition saying they will support the bill even though it is half-baked. The bill seeks to provide cheap foodgrains to 82 crore people in the country, ushering in the biggest programme in the world, to fight hunger.
The ambitious bill was adopted by the House through a voice vote after a nine-hour combined discussion on the measure and a statutory resolution seeking to disapprove the ordinance promulgated on 5 July. Over 300 amendments moved by the opposition were rejected
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh lauded the passage of the bill. "It is yet another step of UPA government in direction of pro-people policies," he said.
Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj, endorsing the bill said "This bill is half baked, but we have still decided to support it."
Sharad Yadav too pitched in to the last minute debate saying, "The farmers must not suffer in the name of the Food Security Bill."
Meanwhile, Sonia Gandhi had to leave Parliament because she was feeling under the weather. Gandhi was rushed to AIIMS in a car from Parliament house when voting was underway on the National Food Security Bill.
Sonia Gandhi earlier in the day had urged the Parliament to pass this legislature, which she termed a 'historic' one. "The food bill is meant for the less fortunate sections of our society," she said while taking part in an animated discussion in Lok Sabha. "It is a historic step to eradicate hunger."
"It is time to send out a big message that India can take the responsibility of ensuring food security for all its citizens," she added, to loud thumping of desks by members of the Congress-led UPA.
"It's time to take the historic step," Gandhi said of the bill, her pet welfare legislation and which many feel may prove to be a game-changer in the next Lok Sabha election.
"It is my fervent appeal that we shall pass this unanimously," she had said.
As the house listened to her in silence, Gandhi explained the significance of the legislation. "Our foreseeable future must be to wipe out hunger and malnutrition from our country. This legislation is only a beginning. As we move forward, we will be open to constructive suggestion, we will learn from experiences, have an opportunity to transform the lives of millions of people."
"I believe we all must rise to the occasion, set aside our differences and affirm our commitment to (people's) welfare and well being.
Meanwhile Mulayam Singh had alleged that the bill was being brought with an eye on the elections.
“It is clearly being brought for elections…Why didn’t you bring this bill earlier when poor people were dying because of hunger?…Every election, you bring up a measure. There is nothing for the poor,” he had said.
The bill proposes subsidised foodgrain for up to 75 percent of the rural and up to 50 percent of the urban population. It proposes meal entitlement to specific groups.
Eligible households would get five kg of foodgrain per person every month at Rs.3 per kilo of rice, Rs.2 per kilo of wheat and Rs.1 per kilo of coarse grains.
With agency inputs