Wednesday, February 5, 2014


As the general election nears, one can see the feverish pitch at which the Government at the Center is rolling out many populist schemes to "trap" the voters. The most conspicuous scheme has been food security act which is supposed to entitle 67% of people of the country to get adequate quantity of cereal practically free! The Direct Benefit Transfer scheme based on Adhar number touted as a game changer became a flop show after it was "suspended" due to many insurmountable practical problems. According to many experts what country needs is empowerment in stead of entitlement and this has been realized by the opposition parties which are expected to come to power after the election. This is considered a good omen as people can look forward to a change of track benefiting most of the citizens in the coming years. Here is an expose on this issue by a learned journalist which speaks for itself.

"A significant message being articulated by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in its election campaign is that the policy focus should shift from entitlement to empowerment. In speech after speech, the BJP's prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, says that people should stop depending on what the government gives them and become self-reliant. At one level, this is a direct attack on the United Progressive Alliance's (UPA's) record of instituting a number of large safety nets - the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act and the food security Act being the prime examples. While the basic objective of both schemes to provide food and livelihood safety nets to people who genuinely need them cannot be questioned, there are concerns about the design of the schemes and, in the case of the former, the quality of implementation and monitoring. The real question is whether these schemes are high on errors of both inclusion and exclusion - in other words, whether people who don't need benefits are getting them and people who do so are not getting them. This concern has been particularly acute in the food security domain, with the Act guaranteeing subsidised foodgrain to about 67 per cent of the population, while the population below the official poverty line is just about a third of that level. The fiscal consequences of badly targeted programmes are enormous, not to mention the collateral damage of corruption.'

It is a common experience for many poor people that while they get cheap cereals, practically every other item of daily consumption costs heavily due to uncontrolled inflation, straining the family budget. Added to this the cost of labor increased almost 100% during the last three years making services and manufactured products dearer. With free food grains there is no incentivisation for work and in every sphere of activity needing human labor there appears to be an artificial scarcity. How this mess is going to be sorted out is any body's guess! Unless people are empowered to earn their livelihood through making available opportunities to work with decent compensation, no doling out scheme is going to help the country. The free food supply to only those who are genuinely poor makes sense and if the ground realities are to be seen, less than 25% of the population need such assistance till they come out of property. It is a curse on this country that politicians are trying to bribe the population through such anti development policies with the short term objective of achieving power!


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