India’s Cabinet Passes Food Security Bill

“India’s cabinet agreed on Sunday to tackle widespread malnutrition with food subsidies for two-thirds of the country’s 1.2 billion population, a move that may shore up support for the government but carries risks for the faltering economy,” Reuters reports. “The new scheme aims to tackle rates of child malnutrition that are worse than in sub-Saharan Africa, but critics say slowing growth and a widening fiscal deficit in Asia’s third largest economy mean the timing of the bill is irresponsible,” the news agency writes (Prusty, 12/18).

“The food security law, which will be rolled out in several phases, seeks to significantly extend the reach of India’s existing public food distribution system that sells rice, wheat and a few other food items to low-income families much below market prices,” the Wall Street Journal notes. The $18 billion cost of the new program “could prove a severe stress to India’s already-beleaguered finances,” but “the law could boost the government’s battered image ahead of elections in a number of major states,” the newspaper reports (Roy/Bhattacharya, 12/18).