NEW DELHI - India will spend 11.8 trillion rupees ($141.63 billion) to fund the extension of its free food grains program for the next five years, the country's information minister said on Wednesday.

The scheme is aimed at ensuring food and nutrition security for 813.5 million people, Anurag Thakur told the media after a federal cabinet meeting.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Nov.4 announced that his government would extend the welfare scheme, which was due to end in December, by five years. The announcement comes ahead of general elections early next year and was approved by the cabinet on Wednesday.

"Free food grains will strengthen food security and mitigate any financial hardship of the poor and vulnerable sections of the population," the government said in a statement. ($1 = 83.3185 Indian rupees)

(Reporting by Sarita Chaganti Singh; Editing by Sonia Cheema)