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Indian president clears world’s largest food subsidy plan
July 5, 2013, 12:01 pm


The food security bill aims to provide subsidised food grain to around 800 million people [AP]

Indian President Pranab Mukherjee has signed the ordinance on the world’s largest food subsidy programme.

The Food Security Bill will provide 67 per cent of the Indian population with 5kg of cheap grain every month.

The scheme will cost the government an estimated $22 billion a year.

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

The programme was taken up for debate in the lower house of the Indian Parliament during the budget session that ended in May, but could not be passed due to protests from opposition parties.

The Indian Parliament is yet to ratify the bill.

India constitutes 40 per cent of the world’s malnourished population and has the highest rate of underweight children, according to a recent global health study.

Canada-based NGO Micronutrient Initiative said in its report last week: “India has the highest rates of stunted growth, underweight and anaemia in children. And the most ironic part is that India has all the programs and policies required to handle the problem but then there is no proper implementation.”

India’s Food Minister K V Thomas was asked recently whether India could afford to have a statutory right to food, and the minister replied, “Can we afford not to?”

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.

With inputs from Agencies