The Indian upper house of parliament has passed a bill known as “The Food Security Bill”, which seeks to make feeding a constitutional right of every Indian citizen.
According to the provisions of the Bill, 5kg of grain will be provided every month to some 800 million poor people.
The bill proposes to provide a kilo of rice at three rupees (about ten Naira), wheat at two rupees and millet at one rupee.
Millions live below the poverty line and many children are malnourished.
The scheme is likely to cost the government 1.3 trillion rupees (about 4 trillion Naira) every year.
The lower house of parliament passed the bill last month. It will now go to President Pranab Mukherjee for assent to become Law.
The bill was passed after a long debate in the upper house with the opposition criticising the government for “repackaging some existing schemes” with an eye on general elections next year.
Food Minister, KV Thomas, said the federal government and the states “will have to work hand-in-hand” to make the scheme work, and that the government would bear the major part of the expenses.
India accounts for a third of the world’s poor and supporters say such assistance will help reduce poverty and hunger.
The bill was an election promise made by the governing Congress party and its implementation is expected to help the party in the elections.
It has had a rocky journey through the legislative process, though.
In July, the cabinet passed the measure as an ordinance using special constitutional powers to enable Mr Mukherjee to temporarily sign it into law but parliamentary approval was needed before 6 September – when the current session of parliament ends – for it to remain lawful.