Tuesday, April 16, 2013


The recent debate on proposed food security bill in the Parliament during December last was indeed very illuminating and those who blocked the drat Bill deserves country's gratitude for at least temporarily stopping the madness of the Government in pushing through a legislation considered "half baked". Inappropriately called Food Security Bill, it cannot ensure food safety in the country which is operating a Public Distribution System full of "holes" enabling fraudsters, gangsters, looters of all colors with or without political nexus to siphon off more than 50% of the food grains channeled through this leaky operation. Every one including the promoters of this scheme knows that public money is being wasted under a populist scheme increasing the food subsidy drastically, that too for a country reeling under heavy current account deficit. Here is a critique on this subject which is still being dangled across the nation as a remedy to abolish poverty in the land. 

"Earlier, Chairman of the Commission of Agricultural Costs Ashok Gulati, in his deposition before the panel, had said that the implementation of the Bill would be a massive challenge as nearly two-thirds of the population, 1.2 billion, will have to be covered by it. Similarly, the Union Agriculture Ministry, in its submission,  also expressed its reservations towards the Bill. According to sources, the panel is likely to recommend giving legal right over subsidised food grains to 67 per cent of the country's population, in line with the Food Security Bill introduced in the Lok Sabha in December 2011. The panel will also suggest the Centre to give freedom to state governments to identify the number of beneficiaries. However, the consensus is yet to be reached on the quantity of food grain to be supplied to beneficiaries. The proposed Bill aims to supply seven kg of food grain per person each month to priority households and three kg to general households. But some members demanded that entitlement over subsidised grains should be on the basis of each family instead of an individual as this will benefit large families".

It is recognized that subsidized food should be given to those who are impoverished, under nourished and poor but supplying the grains at Rs 1-3 per kg for a majority of the population is silly and ridiculous, amounting to profligacy! Rupee has lost its value very significantly during the last one decade and even beggars do not accept one rupee as alms because of its very low purchasing value. In a country like India where minimum wages are continuously being hiked reaching almost Rs 150 per day, where is the need for distributing food grains at Rs 1-3 per kg as most families can afford to buy the food grains at considerably much higher prices, say Rs 10-15 per kg. Why should the scheme cover families with monthly incomes as high as Rs 5000 and above? It is time that conscious effort is made by the government to fix the criteria for deserving recipients and confine supply of low cost food grains only to such families. Probably such a decisive step may bring down the food subsidy by almost 70-80% of the present outgo. The dynamics of politics should not interfere while evolving such national policies of far reaching importance.


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