We made such a law so that nobody goes hungry, says Sonia Gandhi

Despite the delay in passage of the Food Security Bill in Parliament, the ambitious programme was launched by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday with the promise that it would reach two-thirds of the country’s 125-crore population and provide them with grain at subsidised rates.

Hailing the scheme as an “unparalleled” one in the world, as it aims to feed every poor person in the country, Ms. Gandhi said: “We have people who still do not get food and there are malnourished children in the country. That is why we made such a law so that nobody goes hungry and no child sleeps without food.” She unveiled the scheme by handing over 5-kg grain packets and Aadhaar-based smart cards to 12 women.

“Unique step”

At the launch, which coincided with the former Prime Minister, Rajiv Gandhi’s birth anniversary, Ms. Gandhi said: “More than 80 crore people will benefit from the scheme. It is a unique step.”

The food security programme would provide subsidised grains for 67 per cent of the population and would see government spending an estimated Rs. 1,25,000 crore to supply 62 million tonnes of grains. Under the scheme, beneficiaries would get wheat at Rs. 2 a kg, rice at Rs. 3 a kg and coarse grain at Rs. 1 a kg.

Ms. Gandhi, however, acknowledged the shortcomings of the public distribution system. “We all know there are many deficiencies in the PDS. That is why, PDS reforms have been emphasised under the food security programme, so that benefits of the law reaches the right people and there is no scope for corruption,” she said.

While she lauded the UPA government for bringing “revolutionary changes” in the life of the common man, Ms. Gandhi refrained from blaming the Opposition for obstructing the passage of the Bill in Parliament. However, Union Food Minister K.V. Thomas and Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit openly criticised the Opposition.

Mr. Thomas slammed Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in particular over his recent letter on the food security scheme. “Last week when I got a letter from Narendra Modi, what was the aim? It was to delay. Modi, who claims to be the next Prime Minister of the country, is denying the right to the people,” he said. Referring to Parliament sessions, he said the “Opposition parties are not taking a positive attitude.”

The benefits of the scheme would trickle down through the female head of the household, noted Ms. Dikshit, adding: “It is a historic initiative.”