India's cheap food plans to prove costly for government
The law would have little effect on India's export volumes in a good crop year, but "in a year of shortage, there could be some impact" on international markets, a Singapore-based trader said.
The bill will give rice at 3 rupees per kg to the poorest people, less than 10 percent of current retail prices, and wheat at 2 rupees per kg.
The government estimates it would need about 61 million tonnes of grains, only 3 million tonnes than it currently makes available, to provide the extra food, hoping better distribution systems and a clamp-down on corruption will reduce wastage.
Last year only about 41.4 million tonnes was actually distributed by state governments in cheap food schemes.
The Congress party, which leads the ruling coalition, wants to pass the bill by May 10 when the parliament session ends.
But debate this week has been disrupted by opposition parties, which say the government is pushing the populist move as a smokescreen to avoid defending itself over corruption scandals.
Last week, police arrested the nephew of Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal in connection with allegations that he accepted a bribe of $160,000 to arrange the promotion of a railway official.
The government may try to pass the bill again in the parliamentary session that starts around July 23 or push it through without a vote when parliament is not sitting, using special constitutional powers. It must then win approval for the bill within six weeks of parliament's return.