Sonia's food bill dream to come true: Congress

New Delhi, Aug 8 (IANS) A day after the government introduced the food security bill in the Lok Sabha, the Congress Thursday said the dream of party chief Sonia Gandhi was about to come true.

"Sonia Gandhi's dream is near completion. The food security bill will be taken up in the Lok Sabha Monday," Congress spokesperson Raj Babbar told reporters.

The bill, he said would not only give right to nutritious food to around 82 crore people but also to pregnant women.

Food Minister K.V. Thomas first withdrew the food security bill that had been introduced in the house in 2011 and then introduced the new measure, based on the ordinance which had been tabled for approval in the house Monday.

"The bill does not impinge on the rights of states. There is nothing against the federal structure. The bill aims at giving food as a matter of right," Thomas said in the house.

Getting the food security bill passed is a top priority for the United Progressive Alliance (UPA).

The bill could not be passed in the previous budget session of parliament.

The bill, expected to be a game changer for the ruling Congress ahead of five assembly polls this year-end and the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, aims to provide 5 kg of foodgrains every month at Rs.1-3 per kg to around 67 percent of India's 1.2 billion people, numbering around 800 million.

The bill costing Rs.124,723 crore to the government initially, will bring an additional burden of only Rs.23,800 crore, the Congress has said.

The bill, part of Congress manifesto in the 2009 polls, is expected to bring electoral benefits just as the rural job plan - the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme - brought in the 2009 general elections.

Several Congress-ruled states, including poll-bound Delhi, Haryana and Assam have said they would launch the scheme Aug 20, the birth anniversary of former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi.

Thomas said the government had already procured an average 60.2 million tonnes (mt) of grains in the past four years and would have no difficulty in managing the 61.2 mt needed.

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