President Pranab Mukherjee on Friday signed the food security Ordinance giving the right to over 82 crore people to get 5 kg of grains per month at Rs 1-3 per kg, notwithstanding strong criticism from opposition parties over the step.
"The President of India Shri Pranab Mukherjee promulgated the National Food Security Ordinance, 2013 today," Rashtrapati Bhavan spokesperson Venu Rajamony said in a statement here.
The Food Security programme - being described by the Congress as the game changer - will be the biggest in the world with the government spending of Rs 1,25,000 crore per year on supply of about 62 million tonnes of rice, wheat and coarse cereals to 67 per cent of the population.
The Ordinance has been issued just weeks before the scheduled Monsoon session of Parliament amid intense opposition from political parties which opposed the Ordinance route adopted by the government and wanted the bill to be debated in Parliament before being passed.
The Cabinet had on Wednesday approved the Ordinance to implement the food bill - a pet project of the UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi. In its manifesto for 2009 general election, Congress had promised to bring forward this law.
"The programme will be implemented within six months. We have informed the States. Whichever state is prepared and has identified the beneficiaries and wants to implement at the earliest, we welcome them," Food Minister KV Thomas said.
Rejecting opposition charge that government was in a hurry to bring the Ordinance with an eye on Lok Sabha polls, he said the government had no other option but to go for this route as efforts to get the bill passed during Budget session had been stonewalled by the BJP and some other parties.
"Anyway, the Ordinance has to be passed in Parliament within six months," he said, adding that all political parties can then debate the issue at length.
The Ordinance guarantees 5 kgs of rice, wheat and coarse cereals per month per person at a fixed price of Rs 3, 2, 1, respectively.
However, about 2.43 crore poorest of the poor families covered under the Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) scheme under PDS would continue to get 35 kg of grains per family per month but with legal entitlement.