Amid uproar over several scams, government today sprang a surprise over the Opposition in the Lok Sabha by taking up the ambitious National Food Security Bill for consideration despite protests.
A brief debate was held amid an unprecedented din with members from Left and Right in the Well denouncing "dictatorial ways" of the government in pushing through the much talked about legislation when Parliament is paralysed over various scams.
"Loktantra ki hatyari sarkar, nahin chalegi..." chanted BJP members who were joined by Left members in denouncing the Congress-led coalition.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi, whose brainchild is the food security bill, was prominent among those present. Gandhi, who is also UPA Chairperson, virtually led the treasury benches in marshalling forces in favour of the legislation.
Flanked by parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath, she was seen gesturing to members to make sharp but brief speeches. Nath look amused at the situation.
Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj appeared to have been caught off guard as Girija Vyas, who was in the chair, took up the bill for consideration after the House approved the extension of the JPC on 2G scam till the Monsoon session.
BJP members were so agitated that they started thumping the side table of the Presiding Officer to draw the attention of Vyas who chose to ignore their protest.
After food minister KV Thomas sang paeans of the key bill in the din, the inconclusive discussion saw Sanjay Nirupam (Cong), Dinesh Trivedi (Trinamool), Sanjeev Naik (NCP) and Bhakta Charan Das (Cong) speaking briefly on the proposed measure.
Members from Shiromani Akali Dal, a constituent of NDA, were seen demanding a Supreme Court-monitored SIT probe into the 1984 anti-Sikh riots.
As the din continued, the House was adjourned for the day.
The Food Bill aims to give legal right over a uniform quantity of 5 kg foodgrains at a fixed price of Rs 1-3 per kg via ration shops to 67% of the population.
Last week, the amendments to the Food Bill, which was originally introduced in Parliament in December, 2011, was moved in the Lok Sabha but discussion could not take place due to disruption of proceedings on several issues, including 'coalgate scam'.
Thomas has made it clear that there are no plans to take the Ordinance route to implement the Bill, in case government fails to ensure its passage in the current session of Parliament that has been marred by frequent disruptions.
Thomas said last week: "If an Ordinance is not replaced with a Act, then the beneficiaries will lose their legal right and the entire Public Distribution System (PDS) would get affected."
He said the Bill could be implemented through an executive order to an extent of supplying 5 kg of foodgrains to each person at an highly subsidised rate. "But an executive order will not ensure the legal right," he said.
Dinesh Trivedi (Trinamool), who laid his speech on the table, said the legislation seeks to reduce the entitlement of foodgrains of families living below the poverty line from the existing 35 kg to 25 kg per household per month.
He said studies show that a household consisting of two adults and as many children requires 50 kg of foodgrain per month.