Participating in the debate, UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi appealed all the political parties to set aside differences and pass the Food Bill unanimously. "I am standing in support of Food Bill. It's time to take the historic step,” she said.

"It is my fervent appeal that we shall pass this unanimously. We are open to constructive criticism, we must rise above differences to pass this," Gandhi said.

"The Food Bill is meant for the less fortunate sections of our society. The Food Bill is a historic step to eradicate hunger,” she added.

"It is time to send out a big message that India can take the responsibility of ensuring food security for all," she said.

“The question is not whether we have resources to implement Food Bill; we have to mobilize resources anyhow,” she added.
“Reforming public distribution system is a fundamental need for success of the Food Law,” the UPA chief said.

Meanwhile, SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav demanded that Food Bill be kept in abeyance till all Chief Ministers are consulted. "Who will foot the financial burden for the states in implementing the bill? The centre should have convened a meeting of Chief Ministers on the bill before bringing it in the Parliament," he said.

"The bill does not say that all of farmers' produce will be bought. Bring in the amendments for this," he said.

"The bill is aimed at elections. If they had wanted to do something for the poor, they could have done it six months back,” SP chief said.

“Food Bill will hurt farmers; it is only aimed at elections," Yadav said.

Moving the motion for consideration and passing of the bill, Food Minister KV Thomas said the welfare scheme will give nutritious food to the beneficiaries.

Food Security Bill or UPA's vote security bill, asks BJP

BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi opposed the Food Security Bill, saying the government had introduced it for "vote security". "This is not a Food Security but a vote security bill," Joshi said in the Lok Sabha.

"Why did you not bring it before?" asked the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader. Joshi accused the government of bringing the bill in a hurry and said it had many shortcomings.

"You have not defined what is adequate food," he said. Asking "who would provide cooked meals to the destitute", he alleged that only multinational corporations would benefit from the legislation.

Questioning the government on the poverty statistics in the country, Joshi said the bill had tremendous financial implications. "You manipulate poverty estimates. You want to show only you care for the poor and no one else," he said.

Citing the model of BJP-ruled Chhattisgarh, he said the Centre should take cue from the Food Security Law being implemented in that state. Joshi expressed concern on food production in India, saying it needed to be enhanced to match the bill. "Farmers are quitting agriculture and farmer suicides are up. Farmers are not getting their due," he said.

The bill is expected to be a game-changer for the ruling Congress ahead of five assembly polls this year-end and the 2014 general elections. The bill, part of the Congress manifesto for the 2009 polls, will cost the government around Rs 124,723 crore.

The Food Security Bill was first introduced in the Parliament in December 2011. It remained with a standing committee for a year, before it was taken to the Lok Sabha for consideration and passing in the Budget Session that ended on May 8. Later, the government brought an Ordinance for the same which has been replaced by the bill being debated.


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