Wednesday, December 11, 2013


Overruling all useful suggestions made by many experts and other knowledgeable critics, the so called food security bill has now been made a law in a tearing hurry, empowering about two thirds of the Indian population to get highly subsidized cereals like rice and wheat. Though many citizens are wondering about its impact on their lives, what has emerged clear is that the money saved through such subsidized foods is more than compensated by galloping inflation vis-a-vis all other daily needs creating a gaping hole in the family budget! Also questionable is the over emphasis of the program on calories ignoring the nutrient needs of the citizens which only can make life livable! There are of course a few good sub-programs which if properly implemented may benefit some of the vulnerable groups like pregnant women and children. Still it is felt that this massive program would have been much more effective if adequate planning and consultations were made before passing the same. A similar program, already being implemented in the state of Chhattisgarh, in comparison seems to be a much better one in several aspects and it is worthwhile for the federal government to incorporate some of the features in the National Program without being politically hostile to the ideas contained in the state program. Here is a take on this issue which needs impartial examination by the administrators of all hues for the benefit of the country.

"With about a few weeks to go for the election code of conduct to be in place in the State, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh is fiercely promoting his food security policy through speeches, interviews and articles and branding the Congress' National Food Security Bill, 2013 as an "irrevocable failure". While launching the Hindi edition of a national magazine in Raipur recently, he said "…making a mountain out of a mole hill, is the only way one can describe the National Food Security Bill." Mr. Singh has been criticising the National Food Bill in public rallies since it was placed in Parliament a few weeks back. He feels the Bill is unable to match the Chhattisgarh Food Security and Nutritional Act, in "quality and quantity." While highlighting the differences between the National Bill and the State Act, one of his arguments has been that the Central Bill has not addressed the "nutritional requirement" of the people. "The National Bill was projected as a game changer. But without adding pulses or salt, how is it going to address the issue of malnutrition? I feel, it has failed to change the game," reiterated Mr. Singh. The State government has added two kg of pulses and an equal amount of salt to its Act to address large scale malnutrition in Chhattisgarh"

Probably politicians from different parties are trying to score brownie points through high pitched propaganda regarding the merits and demerits of each others' schemes. It cannot be denied that people in this country will stand to benefit in economic terms by such free distribution of staples though a larger question will linger on regarding the necessity for incurring such massive investments year after year, literally bleeding the country. An innocent citizen cannot help but ask a pertinent question as to what was wrong with the Public Distribution System (PDS), established decades ago for the government to be provoked to come out with the new scheme? It is well known that PDS is working marvelously well in some states due to the administrative efficiency of the governments there. It would have been worthwhile to make attempts to emulate them so that PDS is still a force to reckon with for providing access to cheap food that includes cereal, pulses, cooking oils and sugar for millions of poor people at affordable cost but definitely not free!. After all each and every citizen must understand that one must work and earn for the food and freebies can only bring disaster and misery to the country eventually!


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