President Pranab Mukherjee on Friday signed the ordinance on Food Security to give nation's two-third population the right to get 5 kgs of foodgrains every month at highly subsidised rates of Rs. 1-3 per kg.
Mukherjee cleared the ordinance, which was received by the President's Secretariat last night, ending speculation that he may not be in a rush to give his nod in the wake of strong reservations over its present form expressed by BJP, Left and some other major parties.
The Food Security programme will be the biggest in the world with the government spending estimated at Rs. 125,000 crore annually on supply of about 62 million tonnes of rice, wheat and coarse cereals to 67% of the population.
The Cabinet, which had last month deferred a decision on the issue following differences within, had approved promulgation of an ordinance to implement the Food Security Bill on Wednesday.
The Ordinance comes just weeks before the scheduled Monsoon session of Parliament and political parties demanding that the Food Security Bill be debated in both Houses before being passed.
Left parties attacked the government for taking the ordinance route saying the UPA-II has shown contempt for Parliament while BJP termed it an "election gimmick" saying Congress was running away from a debate in the House.
Samajwadi Party, a key outside supporter of UPA, also sharply opposed promulgation of the ordinance saying it was undemocratic and the programme would derail the food economy.
The Ordinance will have to be approved by both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha within six months of promulgation.
The measure will guarantee 5 kg of rice, wheat and coarse cereals per month per person at a fixed price of Rs. 3, 2, 1, respectively,
However, about 2.43 crore poorest of the poor families covered under the Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) scheme under PDS (Public Distribution System) would continue to get 35 kg of foodgrains per family per month but with legal entitlement.