New Delhi: UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi on Monday urged lawmakers to clear her party's flagship Food Security welfare scheme to provide cheap food to nearly 70 percent of India.
"We have a chance to create history with this bill. So, my humble appeal is that we, as representatives of people, must make this Bill into an Act," she told members of the Lok Sabha.
Speaking first in Hindi and then in English, she described the opportunity to make the Bill into Law as a historic moment, and said her party is delivering on an earlier promise made to the country.
"In 2009, we had promised to come out with a food security bill, and I am extremely happy to say that we are fulfilling the promise we had made," Gandhi said.
"There are people who ask whether we have the means to implement this scheme, I would like to say that we have to figure out the means. The question is not whether we can do it or not. We have to do it," she added.
Stating that a clear message is being sent out today that India is taking care of providing food to all of its citizens, Gandhi said: "We are ensuring that no child will be malnourished. It's an opportunity that we are providing food security to all. It will also ensure a stop to food grain wastage."
Earlier, initiating the debate on the UPA government's landmark Food Security Bill in the Lok Sabha, Food Minister K.V Thomas on Monday said the bill would ensure more transparency and accountability in the PDS system
Food Security Bill ensures more transparency and accountability in the PDS system, Thomas said, adding, that the number of persons to be covered by the Food Security Bill will be based on the 2011 census.
"This bill will also enhance accountability and transparency. In the current PDS system, there is at least 20-30 percent leakage which leads to black marketing. We have made provisions for the setting up of vigilance committees that will monitor the distribution of supplies and make sure the right people get them," he said.
"We have also put in a clause by which a government servant will be punished if he/she found to be involved in squandering of the supply or if the distribution is not done properly," he added.
The National Food Security Bill is a historic initiative for ensuring food and nutritional security to the people. It gives a right to the people to receive adequate quantity of foodgrains at affordable prices.
The Bill has a special focus on nutritional support to the poorest of the poor , women and children.
In case of non-supply of foodgrains, the deprived will get a food security allowance. The Bill also provides for grievance redressal mechanism and penalty for non -compliance by a public servant or authority. Under the plan, the government will sell subsidised wheat and rice to 67 percent of its 1.2 billion population.