Wednesday, April 18, 2012


That a blind and insensitive government can cause immense damage is amply borne out by some of the reckless policies being pursued by the present government in India. Most audacious policy which has caused fierce controversy is its new so called "food security" bill which is being sought to be pushed through for the sake of garnering vote banks for riding to power again. It is scary for the citizens that national resources are being frittered away in the name of social equity because a bankrupt country cannot exist for long without massive foreign aid and debt burden. Impartial observers may fret and fume about these policies but the magnet of power can make political parties impervious to criticism or suggestions from those who are knowledgeable on this score. Here is a commentary on GOI policies as being pursued bringing out the dangers inherent in such policies. 

"Taking forward its 'aam aadmi' agenda through policies like the Food Security Bill, the Congress-led UPA government at the Centre looks set to pursue more such policies after the UP polls. In fact, sops announced in the run up to the Assembly polls like the financial package for handloom weavers that will result in a financial burden of Rs 6,303 crore to the government will have to be implemented. With such populist measures costing the government dearly, bureaucrats at North Block are a worried lot, as they grapple with the task of containing a rising fiscal deficit. According to Congress sources, with a better performance for the party in UP being a foregone conclusion, more such popular policies will be pedalled out. A National Advisory Council (NAC) member, speaking to Business Standard, said the Council had already been deliberating on an entire range of policy initiatives for the poor and the disadvantaged, but the model code of conduct makes it difficult for them to speak openly about it at present. Some of the policies the NAC is working on include schemes for street vendors, the urban poor and tribal groups. Significantly, the much-hyped Food Security Bill — a pet project of Sonia Gandhi-led NAC and which the Congress has even committed in its poll manifesto — is likely to push up the subsidy by Rs 27,663 crore by conservative estimates. While Gandhi's 'big ticket' policy was opposed by agriculture minister Sharad Pawar initially, citing financial difficulty, it was ultimately pushed through keeping in mind the crucial Assembly elections in UP. The legislation will enable priority households seven kg of rice, wheat and coarse grains to per person per month at Rs 3, Rs 2 and Rs 1 a kg respectively. In the run up to the polls, the financial package for handloom weavers in UP that will set back the government by Rs 6,234 crore was announced by textiles minister Anand Sharma. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's famed Bundelkhand package for drought mitigation has a total outlay of Rs 3,606 crore for use over three years. What was a one time specific need measure has now become a template for further dole outs. The Congress has now gone ahead and promised a series of packages for other "backward regions" in the state such as Mirzapur, Sonbhadra and Chandauli, based on the Bundelkhand package model. Political sociologist Dipankar Gupta speaking to Business Standard said, "These initiatives are effective as one time 'relief measures' to alleviate a crisis situation. The problem arises when instead of being discontinued after some time they are retained as perennial policy."

With a massively corrupt PDS system which is similar to a big sieve that allows more grains to be pilfered before reaching their destination, adding more resources to subsidize this white elephant is nothing but farce perpetrated on the honest citizens of this country. It is shocking to see many recipients of PDS grains feeding the grains to their cattle and poultry birds because of its bad quality and excess grains, more than they need, being given to them! There seems to be no acknowledgment that the PDS as it exists to day has not reduced the poverty level to any significant extent during the last few years. Feeble attempts to address the issue are no substitute to bold action to "engineer" a more equitable and foolproof system to overcome hunger and poverty in the country within a reasonable time.


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