The food bill announced by Indian President Pratibha Patil intends to give food security to 63% of the Indian population, a country which is ravaged by poverty. The National Food Security Act will be brought in later this year and the intention is to provide rice, what and coarse grains to 75% of the rural population and 50% of the urban population.
Whilst it is certainly clear that there is a need for action with regards to poverty, there is a general consensus that this is not what is required. Many have also criticized the government of using poverty to secure votes, rather than as an act of human decency and moral responsibility. The bill has been highly controversial and many believe that we are missing the bigger picture.
Many cite the fact that there are presidential elections coming up this year and that of course now is a perfect time to introduce a bill like this which may well win the votes of a great many across the country.
Speaking on the challenges of this food bill, Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food, and Public Distribution K.V. Thomas had the following to say.
“This is no mean task, a task being accomplished in the second most populated country in the world. All the while, it has been a satisfying journey. The responsibility is not just of the Central Government but equally of the States/[Union Territories]. I am sure together we can fulfill this dream. The day is not far off, when India will be known the world over for this important step towards eradication of hunger, malnutrition and resultant poverty…By providing food security to 75 percent of the rural and 50 percent of the urban population with focus on nutritional needs of children, pregnant and lactating women, the National Food Security Bill will revolutionize food distribution system.”
Those critical of the bill have discussed the mass poverty around the country as a key reason why this will not work. Many rural towns and villages have no electricity or access to be able to get the food in the first place.There is also a clear risk that the food will not stay in the hands of those who get it, and that the entire bill will drive up prices forcing more into poverty. Politician Mulayam Singh Yadav discussed the bill and its relation to the poor.
“It is clearly being brought for elections…Why didn’t you bring this bill earlier when poor people were dying because of hunger?…Every election, you bring up a measure. There is nothing for the poor.”
India and its politicians certainly need too fix the poverty in the country but this food security bill seems to be something more nefarious than honorable and it looks as though it is going to miss its mark when it gets passed.