The controversial Indian Food Security Bill that aims to provide subsidized food to two-thirds of the population has been passed by the lower house.
Under the plan, which still needs to be approved by the upper house, 800 million poor people would receive 11 lbs of cheap grain every month.
Its backers argue it is a big step towards eradicating the widespread hunger and malnutrition plaguing India.
But critics say it is a profligate plan which will hurt India’s economy.
The ambitious legislation will cost 1.3 trillion rupees ($23.9 billion) a year.
The government launched the programme last week by executive decree, but requires parliamentary approval to make it permanent.
In a rare speech to parliament on Monday, Congress party President Sonia Gandhi urged lawmakers to clear her party’s flagship welfare scheme, which she said was part of an “empowerment revolution” worthy of unanimous support.
India’s Food Security Bill aims to provide subsidized food to two-thirds of the population
“Some people ask – do we have the resources for such a legislation? I would like to say, the question is not about resources; we will have to manage resources for this,” Sonia Gandhi said.
“The question is not if we can do this. We have to do this,” she told lawmakers in the lower house.
India accounts for a third of the world’s poor and supporters say such assistance will help reduce poverty and hunger.
But critics have dismissed the bill as a political gimmick ahead of next year’s general election.
“It’s not food security, but a vote securing bill,” opposition BJP MP Murli Manohar Joshi said in parliament before Sonia Gandhi spoke.
The bill proposes to provide a kilo of rice at three rupees, wheat at two rupees and millet at one rupee.
The measure will apply to 75% of Indians living in rural areas and 50% of the urban population.
The bill was an election promise made by the governing Congress party and its implementation is expected to help the party in general elections due next year.
But it has had a rocky journey through the legislative process. Last month, the cabinet passed the measure as an ordinance using special constitutional powers to enable President Pranab Mukherjee temporarily to sign it into law.
But parliamentary approval is needed before 6 September – when the current session of parliament ends – for it to remain lawful.
Opposition parties criticized the government for passing the measure as an ordinance, after initially failing to win parliamentary support.
Despite impressive economic growth in recent years, India still struggles to feed its population and has more malnourished children than any other country in the world.
Angelina Jolie’s turn on the red carpet at the Oscars last week made headlines across the globe.
Almost a week on, picture of Angelina Jolie’s jutting right leg is still generating talk – but now for different reasons.
Dr. Drew appeared on The View yesterday where he said Angelina Jolie looks dangerously malnourished in the eye-catching image.
As the picture was flashed up on a screen behind him, Dr. Drew warned that women should not regard the actress as an ideal of beauty on account of her remarkably skinny figure.
“She’s malnourished,” Dr. Drew claimed, before reiterating: “I just see malnutrition.”
“We should not look at that as an ideal of beauty, even though she might be a beautiful woman.”
Dr. Drew’s comments came after he expressed the same verdict on her “dangerously” skinny frame during his own, self-titled show earlier this week.
As the picture was flashed up on a screen behind him, Dr. Drew warned that women should not regard the actress as an ideal of beauty on account of her remarkably skinny figure
Fox presenter Bill O’Reilly is another who has weighed in on the matter.
“Is it just me or is she looking mighty slim these days? Emaciated even? I was kind of taken aback. Look at the arms on her,” he said on The O’Reilly Factor the day after the Oscars.
Bill O’Reilly went on to say Angelina Jolie, in his opinion, was sending out the wrong message to her fans with her rail-thin physique.
“Something’s going on here,” Bill O’Reilly said.
“She is slight. Let’s hope it’s nothing unusual.”
In November 2011, Grazia magazine reported Angelina Jolie survives on as little as 600 calories a day, which is the equivalent of two bowls of cereal with milk.
“Angelina has been known to start her day with little more than a spoonful of coconut oil and a handful of cereal,” a source told the publication.
“The worrying thing is that she is so busy, she often forgets to eat.
“Sometimes she’ll skip lunch altogether or will just grab a few almonds and some gummy bears while she’s on the go, or will have a protein-based shake rather than anything more substantial.
“Then dinner could be something like a lean steak and a glass of red wine.”
Angelina Jolie’s fluctuating weight has been well documented, with her slim frame becoming painfully thin during difficult emotional times in her life.
She was forced to defend her waif-like frame in 2007, when her weight plummeted following the death of her mother Marcheline.
At the time, Angelina Jolie said: “I have always been lean, and this year I lost my mum and I’ve gone through a lot.
“Instead of people saying I look like a person dealing with something emotionally, they assume it’s because I want to fit into skinny jeans.”