News / Economy

As India Passes Food Bill, Worries Over Cost

Indian vendors arrange grain for display at their shop in Kolkata, August 26, 2013.
Indian vendors arrange grain for display at their shop in Kolkata, August 26, 2013.
Anjana Pasricha
India’s finance minister said the country can afford a massive new government program to provide two-thirds of the country’s population with cheap food. It has been billed as the world’s biggest program to fight hunger, but there are fears it may further strain India’s weakening economy.     
 
A day after the lower house of parliament approved a historic bill to provide heavily subsidized wheat and rice to nearly 800 million people, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said the government has budgeted for the ambitious program.
 
The Food Security Bill was passed late Monday after an impassioned plea by the head of the ruling Congress Party, Sonia Gandhi.
 
Sonia Gandhi told legislators it is not a question of how we find means to implement the food bill, we have to find the way. She said it will transform the lives of tens of millions of people.
                                              
The bill will become law after it is approved by the upper house later this week.
 
It will dramatically expand an existing food subsidy program that covers about 200 million people. The government hopes it will wipe out hunger in a country where malnutrition is widespread. According to the United Nations, India is home to one quarter of the world’s hungry people.   
 
But the main worries center around the program’s huge cost: an estimated $20 billion every year.
 
The central bank has already warned that increased public spending on implementing the food bill could deepen the government's deficit and stoke inflation.
 
Amid such concerns, stock markets plunged Tuesday and the already weakening rupee hit a new record low against the dollar.  
 
That prompted assurances from Finance Minister Chidambaram, who said India can absorb the massive cost of the food security bill. He said the budget deficit will be controlled despite the added burden. 

“We are now on a path of fiscal consolidation. We have some of the best advisers, best economic minds in the world. We will contain the current account deficit, so why doubt our capacity,” said Chidambaram.
 
Opposition parties have supported the food bill, but slammed it as a program meant to gather public support ahead of national elections next year. Murli Manohar Joshi is a senior leader of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party.
 
“This is an inadequate bill, this is a vote security bill, it does not mean anything about food security,” said Joshi.
 
Populist programs meant to attract voters are not new. In the run up to the last two general elections, the Congress Party passed a massive rural jobs plan and waived farm loans worth billions of dollars.

You May Like

Photogallery Ukraine: Russian Forces Tightening Grip on East

And new United Nations report documents human rights abuses committed by both sides in conflict More

Locust Swarms Fill Antananarivo Skies

FAO-led control efforts halted plague More

South Africa’s Plan to Move Rhinos May Not Stop Poaching

Experts say international coordination needed to follow the money trail and bring down rhino horn kingpins More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Gis from: Mumbai
August 30, 2013 2:49 AM
I really think the government have to take drastic measures to put a stall to increasing of population of people who cannot make 3 times meals.IT is high time to implement strong population control measures rather than just giving food at cheaper price to the gorwing undernurished people!

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?i
X
Henry Ridgwell
August 29, 2014 12:26 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Pachyderms Play Polo to Raise Money for Elephants

Polo, the ancient team competition typically played on horseback, is known as the “sport of kings.” However, the royal version for one annual event in Thailand swaps the horse for the kingdom’s national symbol - the elephant. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Samut Prakan reports that the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament is all for a good cause.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video America's Most Popular Artworks Displayed in Public Places

Public places in cities across America were turned into open-air art galleries in August. Pictures of the nation’s most popular artworks were displayed on billboards, bus shelters, subway platforms and more. The idea behind “Art Everywhere,” a collaborative campaign by five major museums is to allow more people to enjoy art and learn about the country’s culture and history. Faiza Elmasry has more.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. Shaikh Azizur Rahman reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7537
JPY
USD
103.79
GBP
USD
0.6032
CAD
USD
1.0957
INR
USD
60.522

Rates may not be current.