M A I N   N E W S

Food Security Bill clears LS hurdle
House adopts UPA’s ‘game-changer’ by voice vote after day-long debate It’s only a beginning, says Sonia
Ajay Banerjee/TNS

New Delhi, August 26
The Lok Sabha tonight cleared the National Food Security Bill with near-unanimity amid Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s call for wiping out hunger and malnutrition from the country.

Sonia admitted to AIIMS

Congress president and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi was rushed to AIIMS on Monday night after she complained of severe weakness, chest pain and suffocation

She was admitted to the ICU of the Cardio-Neuro Centre at the institute and underwent ECG and some other tests, sources in AIIMS said

A team of four doctors led by Dr RC Deka, director of the institute are looking after Sonia, who was in the Lok Sabha for the discussion and voting on the Food Security Bill when she took ill

Union Social Justice Minister Kumari Selja and Rahul Gandhi held Sonia and helped her come out of the House and towards the ambulance of Parliament Medical Service. Doctors said Sonia would be kept under observation

The Bill provides for food subsidy to two-thirds of the population and cost the exchequer Rs 1.24 lakh crore during the current fiscal. It will now go to the Rajya Sabha for final ratification before the President gives his ascent.

Earlier, Sonia sought to allay concerns over the measure. “This legislation is only a beginning. As we move forward, we will be open to constructive suggestions; we will learn from experience.”

The ambitious Bill was adopted by the House through a voice vote at 10.45 pm after an 11-hour non-stop discussion on the measure and a statutory resolution seeking to disapprove the ordinance promulgated on July 5. Over 300 amendments moved by the Opposition were rejected.

Touted as an election “game-changer”, the Bill will enable crores of eligible families to get rice at Rs 3 per kg and wheat at Rs 2 per kg.

The Bill provides immunity against whimsical political masters, as it provides for food security allowance to the beneficiaries if the foodgrain is not supplied to them.

The BJP-led Opposition, which called the Bill a “vote security” programme, was clearly opposed to the clause. Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj, who was unhappy at the rejection of amendments proposed by her party, said: “We support this half-baked Bill and will amend it further when we come to power.” Swaraj’s amendment seeking a ban on cash transfers in lieu of foodgrain was negated by the House in a vote.

A special focus has been put on nutritional support to women and children in the Bill. Women will get a Rs 6,000 maternity allowance besides nutritional food. Children in the age group of six months to 14 years will be entitled to take home ration or hot cooked food under the prescribed nutritional norms.

The original Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha on December 22, 2011 to addresses the issue of food security. It was referred to a Standing Committee on Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution, which interacted with other Central ministries, organisations and individuals, and visited states before submitting its report to the Speaker on January 17.





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