Indian Catholic News

Food bill should work: Kerala bishops

Several such measures initiated in the past to help the poor died out without achieving their goals, they said.

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Governments should work to ensure that the Food Security Bill passed early this week in the parliament does not meet with the fate of several other government-initiated anti-poverty measures, Kerala Catholic bishops have said.

The bill, passed on Monday in the Lok Sabha, wants to provide some 820 million poor Indians with 5kg of grain every month at subsidized price. Rice will cost three rupees per kg, with wheat at two rupees and millet at one rupee.

Several such measures initiated in the past to help the poor died out without achieving their goals, and that should not happen with this bill aimed to make food cheaper for millions poor, the bishops said in a press release Aug. 28.

The nationwide scheme is expected to cost 1.3 trillion rupees (US$ 23.9 billion) a year and some critics say it is unaffordable. Others have labeled the scheme a ‘vote catcher’ for the ruling Congress Party-led coalition, with a general election due before May 2014.

But the Congress Party has called the legislation a landmark measure in the fight against poverty. In a rare speech to parliament on Monday, party president Sonia Gandhi projected it as a pro-poor project worthy of unanimous support from all parties as it aims to cater to two-thirds of the population.

The bishops welcomed the bill saying it has provisions to help million of hungry poor. The steps to ensure nutritious food to pregnant women, lactating mothers and children are also welcome step, they said.

The center and the state governments should work in tandem to implement the bill, and more importantly, should show political will to ensure adequate food production and procurement and to make distribution flawless, the bishops said.

The bill, according to bishops, will help the nation bring down its shockingly high rates of malnutrition, child mortality and hunger deaths. The bishops said this piece of legislation will serve as a model for developing nations to fight poverty and hunger.

Source: UCAN and press release

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