India President Pranab Mukherjee approves cheap food plan
The Indian president has approved a
giant programme to provide
subsidised food to two-thirds of the
Pranab Mukherjee signed into law the
food security ordinance approved by the
cabinet two days ago.
Under the new law, the government will
provide 5kg of cheap grain every month
to nearly 800 million poor people.
The ordinance still has to be ratified by
the parliament within six weeks of its first
sitting, otherwise it will lapse, authorities
Opposition parties have criticised the
government for passing the measure as
an ordinance, after failing to win
Critics say the plan is a political move to
win votes and will drain India's finances.
Supporters say it will help reduce
The ambitious National Food Security
Bill, which will cost 1.3 trillion rupees
($23.9bn; £15.8bn) a year, is being
called one of the world's largest welfare
It was an election promise made by the
ruling Congress party and its
implementation is expected to help the
party in general elections due next year.
But the scheme is intended to combat
hunger - despite impressive economic
growth in recent years, India still
struggles to feed its population and has
more malnourished children than any
other country in the world.
The bill proposes to provide a kilo of rice
at three rupees (six cents; four pence),
wheat at two rupees and millet at one
The measure will apply to 75% of Indians
living in rural areas and 50% of the