Wednesday, March 14, 2012


It is not for nothing that junior politicians are chosen as Ministers for portfolios connected with food. Right from its inception the Minister of Food Processing Industry has always been light weight politicians, largely for ornamental purpose. It was only recently the position was elevated to the cabinet level and this symbolism does not seem to have made any difference if the ministry's "activities and achievements" are critically audited. In the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, a heavy weight personality has been put in charge as a cabinet minister but he has very little time or inclination to manage the portfolio and do justice to this important area. Here again a junior minister has been allotted the food portfolio and this minister with his present stature even finds it difficult to meet a chief minister, that too from the alliance! He has been given the responsibility to canvas for the "illogical" food security bill now under consideration of the Parliament. Hear what he has to say about the "importance" and logic of this bill.

"We procure 30 per cent of the food grains we produce. In 2009-10, our total food grain production was 169 million tonnes and we procured 54.8 million tonnes, that is, we procured 32 per cent. The new poverty line will be determined on the basis of 2011 census, which is currently on. We need about 61 million tonnes as per the present PDS system. If the (food security) bill is enacted, we need 1 million tonnes more to provide 7 kg per person per month for priority sector and 3 kg per person per month for general category. At present, the subsidy bill is Rs 63,000 crore. The PDS provides ration on the basis of the 2000 census. If the new bill comes into effect, the subsidy bill will go up to Rs 1.11 lakh crore. If ration is provided on the basis of the present PDS system, it will be Rs 1.09 lakh crore. The difference is only Rs 2,000 crore on account of the food security bill as ration will have to be provided as per the existing PDS system. To afford an additional burden of Rs 2,000 crore is not an issue. Yes, it is important to plug in the leakages. We've started modernising PDS in the states. Out of 20 crore ration cards, we have weeded out duplicate cards and reduced them to 18 crore. That is 10 per cent. It will further come down as we believe that 20 to 30 per cent of the cards are bogus. It has to come down. Moreover, there is also loss of food grains due to damages in storage and transportation. But, that loss has come down from 2.5 per cent in 2008 to 0.5 per cent. Modernisation of PDS and introduction of Aadhar (UID) cards can virtually eliminate bogus cards, which means savings of 20-30 per cent in subsidy".

It is a tragedy of highest denomination that public money is squandered under some or the other populist schemes primarily to "catch" votes for the ruling parties and nothing exemplifies this madness more than the present food security bill. While the PDS system as it exists to day is in shambles, more food is sought to be pushed through this "pipe" with "gaping holes" obviously for leakage! Also being suggested is to give cash in the hands of families for buying food grains, in stead of depending on the PDS and there cannot be a better criminal scheme than this to siphon of public money "cleanly and neatly"! The misuse of the words food security is all the more evident when government is focusing only on grains with no consideration for really protective foods like legumes, fruits and vegetables which are beyond the reach of millions of poor and middle class families. The incoherent ramblings by this minister do not make sense to any one with a reasonable I.Q!


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