New Delhi: The Ordinance on the ambitious food security scheme, described by Congress as a 'game- changer' and slammed by the Opposition as a gimmick before Lok Sabha elections, received Presidential assent on Friday.
President Pranab Mukherjee signed the Ordinance that will give the nation's three-fourth population the right to get 5 kg of foodgrains every month at highly subsidised rates of Rs 1-3 per kg.
The President's assent came two days after the Cabinet gave its approval to the landmark programme pushed by UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, brushing aside political opposition from allies and others.
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 percent of the population.
The Ordinance comes before the Monsoon session of Parliament which usually begins towards the end of July or early August.
Political parties, including UPA's outside ally Samajwadi Party, have slammed the government's rush to come out with the Ordinance saying such a measure should have been properly debated in Parliament before being enacted.
Rejecting allegations that the measure was hurried up with an eye on elections, Congress said it will be a "game changer" that will provide right to cheap food grains to 82 crore people.
Even before the President's approval came, SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav accused the Congress of indulging in vote-bank politics and that its intentions were not good.
"The Ordinance has been brought keeping in mind the Lok Sabha polls.... The intentions of Congress are not good and my party would look into it and see that interest of farmers is not harmed. Congress is only doing vote politics...," Yadav told reporters in Lucknow.
"Over five lakh people died, mostly in Maharashtra, due to starvation.... Why the government did not distribute food grains to them then?... The condition of Congress is not good in the entire country and the ordinance is a mere propaganda", Yadav alleged.
Noting that the Monsoon session of Parliament is usually convened this month, he said the matter could have been discussed in the House.
Dismissing talk of early elections, Congress general secretary Ajay Maken and Food Minister K V Thomas accused the Opposition of blocking the passage of the key bill in the last session of Parliament.
"This may be a life saver, life changer for many people.... So delay even by a single minute or day, God knows how many lives it could cost," said Maken, Communication Department Chief of the Congress, justifying the Ordinance when the Monsoon Session of Parliament is not far away.
Maintaining that it will take at least six months for people to feel the impact of the measure and its thorough implementation, party leaders said early elections make no sense.