Highlights of proposed Food Security Bill
As the first Congress speaker on the debate in the Lok Sabha on the food Bill, she rejected questions about whether the country had the resources to implement the landmark measure.
"It is time to send out a big message that India can take responsibility of ensuring food security for all Indians...our goal is to wipe out hunger and malnutrition all over the country," Sonia said.
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Making a strong pitch for the smooth passage of the landmark legislation, she said the measure is a historic opportunity to provide food security to tens of millions of people in the country and will end the problem of hunger once for all.
She sought to dismiss questions about whether the ambitious scheme could be implemented. "The question is not whether we have enough resources or not and whether it would benefit the farmers or not. We have to arrange resources for it. We have to do it," she said in the house where Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was present.
Food security: How the states feed India
Sonia said farmers and agriculture have always remained a priority for the UPA.
Agreeing that reforming public distribution system (PDS) was a must for the food law, Sonia noted that there was a basic need to remove the leakages to ensure that benefits of the food bill reached the intended beneficiary.
Sonia said the Congress had made a commitment to the nation in the 2009 election manifesto to bring forward such a legislation. It is one in a series of various rights promised and provided by the UPA such as Right to Information, Right to Education, Right to Work and Right to Forest Produce.
Related: The other food security debate
Sonia said the house got an opportunity Monday to take a historic step to end difficulties of the poor.
"This legislation is only a beginning. As we move forward, we will be open to constructive suggestions, we will learn from experience," she said.
In essence, she said, the country has an opportunity to transform the lives of tens of millions of people. "I believe that we must, together, rise to the occasion, set aside our differences and affirm our commitment to their welfare and well being," she said.
"It is my fervent hope and my humble appeal that we, as representatives of those very people, should convert this Bill into an Act and do so, unanimously," she said.
Sonia said while some sections have got fruits of economic prosperity which is a matter of happiness, some sections are still deprived.
"Now the big issue before us is, what is the responsibility of government towards these people who are less fortunate than others. It is not their fault but they still live with the curse of hunger and malnutrition," she said.