India

Food Bill a big message to the world: Sonia

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SONIANew Delhi, August 26; Sending out a “big message” to the world about India’s capability to take responsibility of food security for all its citizens, Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Monday said National Food Security Bill was her party’s promise to “wipe out hunger and malnutrition.”

Making her maiden speech in the 15th Lok Sabha on the National Food Security Bill — a project she had been pushing for hard – Ms Gandhi said it was a historic opportunity to provide food security to tens of millions of people in the country that would end the problem of hunger.

“This legislation is only the beginning as we move forward we will be more open to constructive suggestions and we will learn from experience. It is good that in the past few years, people from various sections of the society could avail several benefits,” she said.

Expressing concern that there were people who were still not able to avail the fruits of welfare schemes, Ms Gandhi said it was our responsibility towards those who still suffer from malnutrition.

Taking on the detractors who raised doubts over whether the country had resources to implement the landmark measure, the United Progressive Alliance chairperson said: “The question is not whether we have enough resources or not and whether it would benefit the farmers or not. We have to arrange resources for it. We have to do it,” evoking a thunderous applause from the Treasury Benches.

Appealing for support to push through the Bill—dubbed as a “game changer” – Ms Gandhi appealed to all political parties to set aside ideological differences to pass the Bill unanimously on this “historic occasion.”

A packed Lok Sabha seemed in awe as she spelled out the legislations that the government had enacted in the past nine years. “Our UPA Government in 2005 brought in Right to Information Law that ushered in unprecedented transparency in public life, sometimes to our own disadvantage. Little after that, the right to work – the Mahatma Gandhi NREGA, became a reality. This provided employment to one in every four households in the past seven years and has led to increase rural wages. In 2006 we brought path breaking Forest Rights Act which has benefitted lakhs of tribals and other families who have traditionally relied on forests for their livelihood. In 2008 we the Right to Education became a Law. This has already led to a sharp increase in the enrolment in schools.”

“The Food Security Bill is, thus, the fifth in a series of what might be called a right-based approach which provides legal entitlement to the people, puts pressure on the executive to be more responsive and accountable and also puts in place a credible mechanism to redress grievances. This approach, I believe, will bring in about an empowerment revolution in our country something we are proud to have facilitated,” she said.

Pointing out that farmers and agriculture had always remained priority of the UPA, Ms Gandhi said: We have given top-most priority to their issues and will continue to do so. We also have to regain the momentum of the economic growth.”

Admitting that reforming public distribution system (PDS) was a must for the food law, Ms Gandhi noted that there was basic need to remove the leakages to ensure that benefits of the food bill reached the intended beneficiary. “The access to the PDS shops are also not similar everywhere. There is a need to reform the PDS scheme. We have to ensure that its benefits reach to the right people in right manner. This is one of the main focuses in the Food Security Bill”

We have to agree that there are some short comings in the PDS and Integrated Child Development Scheme but with our committed and sincere efforts we can rectify such flaws as we know that these schemes are unparalleled in the world. Our combined responsibility is to rectify any short-comings in these schemes. The States also should take the responsibility for it, she said.

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