Government to promulgate ordinance on food security

New Delhi, June 13 (IANS) The government will take the ordinance route to bring in the National Food Security Bill, a pet legislation of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, Food Minister K.V Thomas said Thursday.

"We are taking the ordinance route because of the opposition, who has been opposing it for the last two sessions," Thomas told Times Now TV news channel.

The minister said that a decision on the ordinance is expected at the cabinet meeting later Thursday.

The ordinance would give effect to the National Food Security Bill, which could not be passed in the budget session of parliament that ended May 8 nas the opposition stalled proceedings demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over the faulty allocation of coal blocks.

The bill aims to provide subsidised foodgrain to around 67 percent of India's 1.2 billion people. Around 800 million people would thus get the subsidised grain, at an initial cost of around Rs.1.3 lakh crore.

It is seen as a big-ticket legislation of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, and could prove to be a game changer ahead of the 2014 general elections.

The ordinance will replace the bill which is in parliament, and will be tabled in the monsoon session of parliament in July-August, sources said.

The move comes despite Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar's suggestion last week that the bill be debated in parliament, indicating his reservations on an ordinance.

In the past, Pawar has expressed his reservations on the bill, saying it would entail a huge subsidy burden on the exchequer and harm the interests of farmers.

Congress sources said his concerns have been addressed.

Over the past few weeks, the government has weighed the pros and cons of an ordinance, and even considered convening a special session of parliament to pass the bill. BJP leader Sushma Swaraj had opposed a special session and had suggested advancing the monsoon session.

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