Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday attacked critics of the food security bill which was passed by Parliament last week, saying money spent on providing meals to the poor cannot be called "wastage" of financial resources.
He said the legislation is aimed at removing hunger from the country by giving people right to food which is part of a series of landmark initiatives of the UPA government such as Right to Information Act and Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.
"Is providing food to people called wastage of money.... The opposition says it is a wastage of money. We want the poor people of the country to stand on their feet," Gandhi said.
The Congress vice-president was speaking at a function after handing over documents offering ownership rights to the first batch of residents of the resettlement colonies in Delhi.
The ambitious bill, expected to benefit 82 crore people in the country, is seen as a "game changer" by the Congress as it prepares to face general elections due in May next year. The BJP had termed the Bill as a "gimmick" with an eye on elections though the party supported it.
Some parties, including UPA's outside supporter Samajwadi Party, had criticised the bill saying it will put additional financial burden on states.
A section of the corporate world has also slammed the Bill saying it will increase the financial burden on the government when the economy was going through a difficult phase.
"We are giving rights to people. Rights means guarantee of development. After the food security legislation, no body in the country will remain hungry," Gandhi said, defending the food security scheme.
The bill was cleared by both houses of Parliament and it will become law once President Pranab Mukherjee gives assent to it.
In his address, Gandhi said UPA government has ensured inclusive growth by changing the development paradigm through a number of historic legislation like Food Security Bill, Right to Information Act and Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act.
"We have brought a number of legislation in the last 10 years which have changed the development paradigm. The aim of the legislations was to ensure rights to people," he said.
Noting various initiatives of UPA government,particularly to ensure welfare of the poor people, Gandhi said India was going through a "transition" and had the potential to occupy the "first position" among all the countries soon.
On Delhi Government's performance, he said it has ensured welfare of all sections of society besides carrying out major infrastructural development.
"The whole country knows if infrastructure development has taken place then it has taken place in Delhi. And who has built it. It is the Congress government. But infrastructure will be of no use if people do not progress," the Congress vice president said.
He said people living in villages across the country come to Delhi with a "dream" and Congress wants to help them realise it.
Gandhi also noted that all sections of people including those living in slums and resettlement colonies have contributed significantly towards making Delhi the "best city" in the country.
"If these flyovers are made, who has made them? If these roads are built, who has constructed them? Those living in the slum clusters and resettlement colonies have immensely contributed to the growth of the city. They have invested their blood and sweat in this," Gandhi said.
"When a person living in a village looks at Delhi, he sees a dream. Congress believes that this transition from villages to cities is not easy... the Congress party wants to fulfil that dream," he said.
Gandhi said Delhi welcomes people from across the country irrespective of their religion.
"Delhi is not only the capital of the country, it symbolises thinking of the whole nation. It is now the best city in the country," he said.
In her address, Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit termed Gandhi as Congress' future prime ministerial candidate who has a "vision" to take India forward.
She also talked about hurdles being faced by her government in implementing various schemes and projects due to multiplicity of authorities.
"The day Rahul Gandhi becomes the Prime Minister, we would go to him and request him to make changes in the existing system. The systems will have to be changed to ensure speedy development of Delhi," she said.
At the function, Gandhi distributed certificates conferring freehold rights to residents of resettlement colonies which were developed almost 40 years ago.
Officials said around 13 lakh families living in 45 resettlement colonies will be benefited by the government decision.
The resettlement colonies are situated in different parts of the city including Sriniwaspuri, Wazirpur, Satya Niketan, Janakpuri, Pankha Road and Madangir.