India's president approves ambitious new food subsidy program

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India's president has approved an ambitious food subsidy program aimed at providing cheap grains to hundreds of millions of Indians.

The estimated 1.3 trillion rupee ($23 billion) Food Security program targets about two-thirds of the country's 1.2 billion people.

President Pranab Mukherjee approved the program on Friday, two days after the Cabinet passed the measure as an executive order after failing to push it through the country's chaotic Parliament.

The order must be ratified by Parliament within six months or it lapses.

Critics say the program is a costly political gimmick ahead of national elections slated for 2014.

It will take several months to launch the program even after parliamentary ratification as government agencies decide how the subsidized grains will be sold and who will qualify to buy them.