Parliament passes Food Security Bill

New Delhi, Sep 2 (IANS) Parliament Monday passed the UPA government's ambitious National Food Security Bill which aims to provide cheap food grain to two-thirds of India's 1.2 billion population.

The Rajya Sabha passed the bill Monday by a voice vote after an almost 10-hour-long debate. The legislation was passed by the Lok Sabha last week.

A record number of 237 amendments were tabled by the Bharatiya Janata Party and other opposition parties but were either rejected or not pursued.

The bill will now be sent to President Pranab Mukherjee for his assent, and will then become a law.

The bill is a favourite welfare legislation of Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who was, however, not in the country on the day it was passed. Congress sources said that she Monday flew to the US for a medical check-up.

The Food Security Bill was moved in the upper house by Food Minister K.V. Thomas.

Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said the bill was mere "repackaging" of existing schemes in different states, and criticised the "hurry" to push through the legislation.

The bill, a part of the Congress election manifesto of 2009, is seen both as a welfare and a populist move to swing votes for a beleaguered Congress in upcoming elections to state assemblies and parliament.

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