Wednesday, December 21, 2011


Critics of Indian government policies and its style of governing are often tarred with a brush accusing them of vested interest and branded as politically motivated! Latest case is the reported mismanagement of buffer stock management which, in turn is closely related to country's food security, does not seem to have any priorities and characterized by lethargic response during periods of food crisis. Interestingly this accusation has come not from trenchant critics but from a Parliamentary committee on public undertakings and one should not forget that this has happened despite the UPA being the ruling combine that controls the government! It looks like food security is simply a populist slogan for politicians in the country without any serious intention to work seriously on achieving the same. Look at the priority of GOI to day when it is thinking only in terms of increasing subsidies from the exchequer for distribution of food grains at prices which are ridiculously low to population supposed to be "poor" though the Public Distribution System already existing has become so rotten even GOI does not know where bulk of the food ends up! Is this not an action for strengthening the "loot brigade" that operates in the country for siphoning off the PDS food grains before it reaches the beneficiaries?. If there is at at least a modicum of accountability those who have been looting the country should have been hanged long ago. Reports like this do not shame the perpetrators of such heinous crimes as ill gotten money is a great "eraser" of all sins!    

A Parliamentary committee has directed the government to ensure the finalisation of the buffer stocking policy for foodgrains within three months. While presenting its report today, the Committee on Public Undertakings headed by Jagdambika Pal expressed "grave concern" over the slow pace of action by the government on the handling of buffer stock policy for food grains. "Expressing their grave concern over the slow pace of action in a matter of serious national issue involving the food security of the country, the committee exhort the department (Food) to address this issue in right earnest and ensure finalisation of buffer stocking policy within 3 months of the presentation of this report," it pointed out. The panel in its earlier report presented to Lok Sabha in February 2009 had recommended that the Food Ministry should go in for intensive technological upgrades to review the buffer stock norms for food grains. It had also suggested that the ministry can take help from Economic Survey, Planning Commission, Finance Ministry, Agriculture Ministry, etc while fixing buffer stock norms. The Department of Food and Public Distribution (F & PD) in its action taken replies furnished in March 2010 had said that the Technical Group headed by F & PD Secretary had asked the National Centre for Agricultural Economics (NCAP) to review the existing buffer stock policy, it added. "The committee are, however, astonished at the subsequent action taken reply furnished by the department in January 2011 that while NCAP report on the subject matter had been considered by the technical group on buffer stocking policy, its report is yet to be finalised," the panel pointed out. The committee felt that the matter has not been given the serious attention that it deserved. The issue relates to the position of food grain stocks with the government in October 2003 and based upon which the Committee on Public Undertakings in its report in 2009 had advised the government to upgrade its buffer stock norms. The panel in its previous report in February 2009 had found the handling of buffer stock of food grains by the Food Corporation of India (FCI) as a case of mismanagement. The committee in its report then had observed that the government committed an error of judgement while handling food grain stocks during 2002-03 and 2003-04. The country had a food grains stock position of 152 lakh tonnes as on October 1, 2002 against the norm of 65 lakh tonnes, but on October 1, 2003, the stock of food grains stood at 52 lakh tonnes against the norm of 65 lakh tonnes, it said. "The committee feel that the government itself has to be blamed for the situation when it allowed high stocks to be piled up and then liquidating the same through exports leading to shortage," it had said. 

The latest extravaganza being unleashed by GOI is coming in the form of Food Security Bill which is likely to become a law soon if the present ruling group has its say and 75% of Indian citizens need not work hard any more because each person can get 7 kg of food grains per month for just Rs 7 while the market price is ruling around Rs 200 for the same quantity! With the poverty level of income being fixed at Rs 32 per day (under MGNREGA scheme Rs 100), one can understand poorest of the poor getting such help from GOI but it is beyond comprehension as to why food should be distributed at such a low cost to others. If this is not electoral calculation what else has motivated the GOI to go for such blatantly populist scheme under the banner of "right to food"? With Food Corporation of India in such a mess, as pointed out by the Parliamentary Committee, it defies logic and common sense as to how this mega "give away" scheme is going to be managed and what economic burden the country will have to bear for this ill considered move?


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