India’s controversial Food Security Bill has moved a step closer to reality after the country’s lower house, the Lok Sabha, approved the controversial Rs1.3lakh crore (US$20bn) plan to provide cheap grain to the poor – a key part of the ruling Congress party's strategy to win re-election next spring.
Under the terms of the Bill, the government will sell subsidised wheat and rice to more than two-thirds of its 1.2 billion population.
India’s finances and it’s ability to meet the vast cost of the scheme has made it unpopular with many sections of society, while the government has been accused of being a cynical vote-winner ahead of next year’s general elections.
However, finance minister P Chindambaram was adamant that the nation can afford the scheme.
"As the rollout takes place in different states on different dates, the money would be made available. In fact, after providing for the food security bill, we would still remain within the limits that were accepted in the Budget papers," he said.