Saturday, August 3, 2013


Now that the much touted Food Security Act (FSA) is brought through the backdoor via the despicable route of an Ordinance, bypassing the Parliament, many states who are in the forefront in running efficient Public Distribution System (PDS) with high degree of efficiency and low pilferage are being penalized by making them restrict the coverage to only those who are poor. In a state like Himachal Pradesh, if reports are to be believed even the family of the Chief Minister buys the ration through the PDS shops at subsidized prices. Same is true with Tamil Nadu also which boasts of a highly efficient PDS plus several programs like distribution of subsidized fresh fruits and vegetables and low cost canteens selling popular preparations at very low pries for the benefit of poor people. FSA ordinance can adversely affect such programs which is a retrograde step with dangerous consequences to the citizenry. Here is a critic's view of the FSA ordinance and its implications.

"Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa has emerged among the strongest voices against the Food Security Bill, which is being pushed by the UPA government. She recently wrote to the Prime Minister asking him to exempt Tamil Nadu from the implementation of the ordinance that brought the Food Security Bill into force. Apart from the political overtones that such a request might be seen to have, experts in the field of food policy say there could be sound logic to Jayalalithaa's plea for exemption. Jayalalithaa had reasoned that Tamil Nadu has for many years now had a Public Distribution System (PDS) that can be availed by all the residents of the State. She said the introduction of the provisions of the Food Security Bill would remove the cover from a portion of the population, ruining the all-inclusive nature of Tamil Nadu's PDS cover. The Food Security Bill makes provisions for different categories of beneficiaries, with the aim to allot more food grains to poor families and less for the better off. A majority of political parties have objected to provisions of the Food Security Bill, especially with relation to the structures and procedures for the determination of beneficiaries and the mode of distribution itself. The continuing lack of clarity on these fronts was behind the repeated disruption of proceedings in Parliament whenever the Bill came up for discussion. The Bill also saw strong opposition from a number of State governments. States like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Odisha and Rajasthan have over the years made changes to their PDS structures to make them more inclusive, based either on local needs or on political considerations. The implementation of the Food Security Bill would mean an erosion of the political gains from the inclusiveness of these systems. Tamil Nadu has had PDS-for-all plus a strong co-operative movement and government interventions. The Amma Unavagams and Farm Fresh Consumer Outlets, which offer subsidised vegetables, fall under the category of interventions. According to Jayalalithaa, Tamil Nadu's systems and interventions have given greater food and nutrition security than can possibly be delivered by the Food Security Bill in its present form'.

There are many critics who have raised their voice against the FSA ordinance and all their criticisms have been brushed aside by the government which calls this foolish program with grave economic consequences to the country as a "game changer". People of this country will never forgive these politicians for the political chicanery being indulged by them for the sake of electoral gains and will see through the game by the time general election arrives in a few months time from now. The rotten grains that lie with the government grain agencies which otherwise are not even fit for animal consumption are going to be supplied in the coming months once the FSA is operationalized and then only the people are going to realize the magnitude of fraud the government is indulging in the name of food security! Unfortunately many opposing political groups do not have the guts to point out the failings of the policy for fear of consumer backlash. As one critic has recently pointed out Government is more bothered about quantity rather than quality and nutrition and this is amply proven by the lethargy with which the food safety and standards act is being implemented leaving the market in the hands of fraudsters and adulterators giving them free hand to indulge in trading in unsafe foods. During the coming twelve months Indian citizens may face the reality of all round food inflation and food scarcity because of the opportunistic policies of the present government. 


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