Recently a food security ordinance was passed by the union cabinet and signed by President Pranab Mukherjee to fight hunger and malnutrition in the country. This is going to be achieved by providing highly subsidised foodgrains to about 67 per cent of the population.
Touted as a ‘game-changer’, the Government led by the Congress Party is looking to push the bill in the monsoon session of Parliament. Simultaneously, the Government is also looking to push through another ‘game-changer’ – the land acquisition Bill.
If these two are implemented and executed in the right manner, many believe it would give some hope to the Congress of not completely embarrassing themselves, if not coming back to power, when the country goes to the polls next year (or at the end of this year).
Many parties oppose the rushing through of the food Bill though they agree in principle with the need to make India hunger-free. They also want to sort out some issues through debate in Parliament.
However, several sections have expressed their reservations about the Bill. The first concerns the intention of the political parties. The timing of the decision and the urgency with which it was pushed through is also under question. Neither the Government nor the other parties show a similar urgency and unity on issues and policies regarding stabilising and strengthening the economy. Yet, the Opposition parties will not make much noise as no one wants to be viewed as being anti-poor.
The Bill envisages a minimum expenditure of Rs 6.82 crore to implement the programme. With India lagging behind in healthcare, education, sanitation, infrastructure and so on, it is shocking to see so much being spent in just one area.
Will it work?
We want India to be hunger free but is this the right path to take? Will it work in the long run? Will tax-payers’ money lead to results on the ground? Especially given that the PDS system we have is riddled with corruption, adulteration, diversion and pilferage. The PDS system should first be rectified. The Direct Benefit Transfer system is a really good measure and the Government should first ensure that all the districts they look to include in the ambit of the food security Bill has 100 per cebt aadhar enrolment along with bank account-linked citizens. This will ensure the money reaches the actual beneficiaries.
Similar schemes have been launched in Chhattisgarh and Karnataka. The Chattisgarh scheme should serve as an example. The one in Karnataka was a poll promise made by Chief Minister Siddaramaiah. It gives 30 kg of rice per month to BPL families at Re.1 a kg. Although the scheme has been launched and is running smoothly, the CM faces funding difficulties.
The focus should also be on creating jobs and attracting industries to rural areas so that the youth over there can earn a livelihood and lead a better life. Education and healthcare should be given importance in rural areas. Empowering the people and getting them to work and earn a living for themselves is better than providing food at throwaway prices. The old saying, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime” comes to mind. With parties and politicians politicising every issue from education to sports, natural disasters to the economy, it is hardly surprising that we are in a Catch-22 situation today. An inconsistent, irresponsible and disruptive Opposition doesn’t help.Instead of having meaningful and constructive debates in Parliament, they shout their lungs out in TV studios every evening.
Shoddy implementation and an aggressive approach just to win votes has taken the sheen off bold economic measures such as FDI in multi-brand retail and deregulation of fuel price, among others. Whether this gets the Congress back to power for a third stint is something we’ll have to wait and watch!
(Surya is studying animation in Bangalore.)