Thursday, August 29, 2013


The "courageous" Government at Delhi (or is it food hardy?) has now jumped into the so called food security program, one wonders what is in store for the country. It looks like government is ignoring the time tested saying that "a bird in hand is two worth in the bush"! That is not doing much to develop the economy while indulging in resource sapping free food distribution extravaganza. The country may end up with neither hungry alleviation nor economic growth. The brutal butchering of Indian rupee in the currency market during this midweek is a warning signal which can be ignored only at the expense of the economic security of this country. The much touted food security bill which garnered support from practically every party did not had the courage to stand up against this populism and voter bribing attempt through this bill and therefore each one of them will be responsible for the economic consequences of implementing an impractical scheme. Here is an informed critique from well reputed experts about the gullibility of this latest action of the federal government. 

"As the procurement of food grains increase, the storage capacity should be appropriate, explained Sabnavis, "If we look at the bill closely, 60 million tones would be distributed annually, on an average five million a month. This means 55 million tonnes would be lying in the warehouses and if we add buffer stock to it, we would move closer to 100 million tonnes of capacity. Hence, we would require appropriate mechanisms for storage." Ashok Gulati, chairman of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices, told Business Standard it was a debatable issue as to how much food grains were damaged. "Twelve million tonnes in Punjab and five-six million tonnes food grains in Haryana are lying in the open. The International Mechanical Engineers estimates say that every year 21 million tones of wheat is damaged in India. Hence, that goes without saying that we need better infrastructure to take care of our produce", said Gulati. The total storage capacity available for central pool stocks was 74.6 million tons as on July 30 this year. However, Gulati believed that unless it is announced what the buffer stocks norms in the Bill are, one cannot know how much produce needs to be stocked. He felt that not more than 51-52 million tones storage capacity will be required for implementing the proposed scheme.  "This is because we need to match our procurement with distribution and at present, we are keeping much larger stocks than we need", added Gulati".

Is it not a pity that no one in the country, least of all those governing the country, has a clue regarding the way to go about in implementing this massive scheme though every one is talking about crossing "the bridge when we reach there"! As rightly said the storage and distribution system as it exists in most states are woefully inadequate to deliver the promises contained in the bill and it is not going to be easy to rectify the same over night even if action is taken to day. With very little evidence about any improvement in the management efficacy of those entrusted with grain storage and distribution, the country will continue to waste grains and allow pilferage through many leaky points through out the system. It is gut wrenching for every honest and conscientious India to be told by experts that more than more than 18 million tons of precious food grains that can feed the population for three months are lying in the open without protection from the spoilage vectors and elements! Another 21 million tons are reported to be damaged every year in the country as assessed by some international agencies. With only a few months remaining for general election there is a lurking suspicion that this food security program will be abandoned once the election over!   


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