India to roll out $20bn food welfare plan


India will roll out its multi-billion dollar food welfare plan by December, the food minister said, allowing 67 per cent of its 1.2 billion people access to cheap rice and wheat.

The previous Congress-led government approved the National Food Security Act (NFSA) in August 2013. India’s 29 states and seven union territories had to implement it within a year. After missing several deadlines, only 11 states could introduce the plan and the rest sought more time.

“Finally most states have agreed to implement NFSA by December, after the latest deadline ends in September,” Ram Vilas Paswan told reporters after meeting his counterparts from states today.

In his February budget, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley earmarked INR 1.24 trillion ($20.11 billion) for food subsidies.

Although Prime Minister Narendra Modi is implementing the expensive food welfare plan approved by his predecessor Manmohan Singh, the government is now trying to rein in overall subsidies to focus on investment in manufacturing and infrastructure.