"I am standing in support of food bill. It's time to take the historic step," said Gandhi and she appealed that "we shall pass this unanimously."
"We are open to constructive criticism, we must rise above differences to pass this.
"There are people who ask whether we have the means to implement this scheme. I would like to say that we have to figure out the means. The question is not whether we can do it or not. We have to do it," she said after the Congress-led UPA government's ambitious Food Security Bill was taken up in Lok Sabha on Monday.
"The food bill is meant for the less fortunate sections of our society. The food bill is a historic step to eradicate hunger. It is time to send out a big message that India can take the responsibility of ensuring food security for all," she said.
"We have always given prominence to farmers and agriculture. For successful implementation of Food Security Bill, leakages in PDS has to be plugged. There is a need for improvement in PDS. We have to manage resources and we have to do it," she said.
Union Food Minister KV Thomas initiated the debate in the Lower House.
"This Bill will improve the Public Distribution System (PDS). Food Security Bill ensures more transparency and accountability in the PDS system," said Thomas.
"The current PDS has a leakage of at least 25pc which we need to close," he said.
"The number of persons to be covered by the Food Security Bill will be based on the 2011 census. Pregnant woman are entitled to Rs 6,000 per year," he said.
"The matter regarding identification of beneficiaries will be left to the state governments," said the minister.
Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Murli Manohar Joshi lashed out at the government and said: "This Bill is not Food Security, but Vote Security Bill. The UPA government has brought the bill when it is time for it to go."
He questioned: "The Bill mentions ready-to-eat food, nutritional food, fortified food. Where will this come from? What is the definition of 'household', does a single person qualify?"
"Universal food guarantee should be the aim. I live in a city, what will I eat? Should I eat coal or spectrum?"
"You are providing food security to some, so don't make noise about universal security," he said.
"The government is misleading public. The bill does not meet the nutritional requirement," said Joshi.
Communist Party of India (CPI) MP Prabodh Panda said: "There are major flaws in the bill, and is incomplete. It does not address the need of everyone in equal measure."
"I have moved a resolution for the disapproval of the Bill," he said.
Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa said that her All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) will vote against the Bill.
"The Food Security Bill with its present amendments, which is due to come up for discussion in Lok Sabha on August 28, 2013, is not acceptable. AIADMK will vote against the Bill," Jayalalithaa said in a statement.
The National Food Security Ordinance is an initiative for ensuring food and nutritional security to the people. It gives the right to the people to receive adequate quantity of foodgrains at affordable prices.
--IBNS (Posted on 26-08-2013)