India parliament passes flagship food-for-poor scheme
NEW DELHI (AFP) - India's parliament on Monday passed a flagship US$18 billion (S$23 billion) programme to provide subsidised food to the poor that is intended to "wipe out" endemic hunger and malnutrition in the aspiring superpower.
The Food Security Bill - a key scheme seen as a vote-winner by the ruling Congress party ahead of national elections next year - was adopted in the lower house after a nine-hour debate.
Meira Kumar, speaker of the lower house announced the passage of the bill, saying: "The ayes have it. The motion is adopted and the bill as amended is passed." In a rare speech in parliament, Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi told MPs to send a message to the world that India was ready to eradicate malnutrition, which Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described as a "national shame".
"The big message which will go out to the country and rest of the world is clear and concrete: that India is taking the responsibility of providing food security of all its citizens," she said.