The Cabinet has okayed the controversial Food Security ordinance despite resistance from the Opposition and UPA allies. The big question remains as to how the government will fund the ambitious project. The cabinet has sent it to the President for his assent. Once the ordinance is ratified by the President, it can remain in operation for a maximum of 6 months, unless approved by the Parliament.
The law guarantees 5 kg rice, wheat or millet per person at Rs 3, 2 and 1 respective to 67 % of the population. It will cost Rs 1,24,000 crore per yearand cover 2/3rds of 120 crore people. The price of the subsidised grain will be reviewed every three years.
For the law to work on the ground, a long road needs to be travelled. New beneficiaries have to be identified, new ration cards have to be given, grievance redress officers have to be appointed and state food commissions have to be set up. All this is not likely to happen in the next few months. Clearly, the government wants to send the signal that it is committed to its electoral promise.
The government gave up on the option of calling a Special Session of Parliament and did not wait for the Monsoon Session either. Even the opposition of its ally Samajwadi Party to the ordinance route did not deter the governmnet. It is perhaps counting on the support of the JD(U), and its former ally, the DMK.
Expectedly, the Left and the BJP are crying foul as they interpret it to be a singal for early LS elections. The Congress, on the other hand, expects it to be a game changer in the 2014 elections, but the ordinance faces a tought test both on the ground where it must work and in Parliament where it must be passed. The sesne of urgency shown by the government has sparked speculation of early elections.