Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Food Bill : Are we losing the larger picture?

This is the world’s largest experiment done to provide food security to 63% of Indian population. Implementation of scheme is expected to cost 3.5 lakh crore rupees and subsidy bill is expected to cost 95000crore rupees. No doubt, both poor urban citizens (50%) and rural citizens (75%) will be benefitted from this scheme if successfully implemented.

People below poverty line (BPL) will get 7 kg food per person (instead of family) where food contains rice, wheat and coarse grains at a rate of 3, 2 and 1rupees per kg respectively. General category get atleast 3kg of grains at rate not exceeding 50% of minimum support price. The supply of food grains shall be linked to targeted PDS reforms, including introduction of schemes such as cash transfer or food coupons and leveraging ‘Aadhar' for biometric identification of the beneficiaries “for proper targeting.”

While this may be a good thing to weed out bogus ration cards or duplication of beneficiaries, it can also deprive deserving beneficiaries in case of any failure of system or technology. Its operation in villages that have no electricity is to be seen. In the present fluid situation, when streamlining of the PDS is not visible, there is a scarcity of storage facility, the number of beneficiaries is not settled, identification of beneficiaries is not done, food grain production levels have not enhanced significantly and irrigation systems are lagging, the government seems to be rushing through the Bill.

Our Indian government should not be reliable to the statistical figures of Food And Agriculture of U.N as it gives the misleading figure of no. of poor people in one’s country. In May 2008, while talking about the ongoing world food crisesPresident Abdoulaye wade of Senegal expressed the opinion that FAO was "a waste of money" and "we must scrap it". Mr Wade said that FAO was itself largely to blame for the price rises. There is no guarantee that poor people used the food for themselves as they will further sell food at escalated price to market people and used that money either to their children’s education or to buy drinks.Consumption level of Indian people is on decline rate. As people have less physical work than before. Quality of food increases drastically which is more nutrient oriented now.

There is a saying in Tamil "Muzhu Pushani kayai.Sothil Maraikathey" meaning do not try to hide a pumpkin amidst the food in the plate, may be the current food security Bill is attempting this trick.The bill should provide a secured food to the poor irrespective of the failure or success of the public distribution system.Creation of employment opportunities and vocational education is what we need, not nobleman’s food security bill.

Shobhit Singhal | Guest Editor
Shobhit Singhal

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