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India Food Bill Debate Stalled In Parliament

“The government [of India] may soon pass the National Food Security Bill to give millions more people cheap food, fulfilling an election promise of the ruling Congress party that could cost about $23 billion a year and take a third of annual grain production,” Reuters reports. “The bill, which aims to feed 70 percent of the population, could widen the already swollen budget deficit next year, increasing the risk to its coveted investment-grade status,” the news service writes (Winterbottom, 5/8). The bill, “first introduced in Parliament in December 2011 to address India’s crippling levels of malnutrition in a comprehensive manner …, was referred to Parliament’s standing committee for further discussion, and then put to debate again in the Lok Sabha by K. V. Thomas, minister of food and consumers affairs, on Monday,” according to the New York Times’ “India Ink” blog, which notes, “only four speakers could speak briefly about the food bill” as India’s lower house of Parliament “descended into a shouting match” before adjourning (Kumar, 5/7).

The “government’s hopes of pushing [the] ambitious food security law through Parliament were snuffed out for the second day [on Tuesday] by protests from opposition parties calling for the resignation of Law Minister Ashwani Kumar,” the Wall Street Journal writes (Mukherji/Chaturvedi, 5/7). “A brief debate followed amid ruckus, with members from the Left parties and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) denouncing the ‘dictatorial ways’ of the government to push through the legislation when Parliament was paralyzed over various scams,” Business Standard adds (5/7). “The government will likely try to pass the food security law again Wednesday. Unless approved by Parliament before the weekend, the end of this budget session, the passage of the law will likely be delayed until the next session, which begins in the third week of July,” the Wall Street Journal notes (5/7). In its “India Real Time” blog, the news service interviews P. K. Joshi, South Asia director of the International Food Policy Research Institute, about the bill (Sugden, 5/8).