4 Jul 2013

Giant food subsidy programme launched in India

5:29 am on 4 July 2013

The Indian government has launched a giant programme to provide subsidised food to two-thirds of the population.

The Food Security Ordinance will provide 5kg of cheap grain every month to nearly 800 million poor people.

Ministers were criticised for passing the measure as an ordinance, after failing to win parliamentary support.

Critics say the plan is a political move to win votes and will drain India's finances.

Many economists question how India can fund the programme which will double the national food subsidy bill to more than 1.3 trillion rupees ($23.9 billion; £15.8 billion).

The food security bill was an election promise made by the ruling Congress party and the government insists money will not be a problem.

The bill proposes to provide a kilo of rice at three rupees (six cents; four pence), wheat at two rupees and millet at one rupee.

A BBC correspondent says the measure will apply to 75% of Indians living in rural areas and 50% of the urban population.