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National Food Security Bill : A Critical Analysis

Posted by Shreyans Jain Tuesday, 9 July 2013 2 comments

The National Food Security Bill envisages food security for nearly 67% of India’s population by providing 5kg of rice, wheat or coarse grains at highly subsidised prices under the Public Distribution System. However, it remains to be seen that such populist measures being undertaken more with the intention to garner the votes of rural poor, would act as a panacea and rid India of malnutrition and hunger. With the Lok Sabha elections approaching and the Supreme Court’s direction to the Election Commission of India to frame guidelines to monitor the expenditure incurred on election propaganda and distribution of freebies by various political parties prior to elections, the government’s sudden decision to promulgate an ordinance for food security, violating the Parliamentary procedures seem to have dampened the spirits of the “well –intentioned” programme. No doubt the Parliament sessions succumbed to the pandemonium created by the Opposition, their objections should not have been perceived as threat to the government’s intentions.

There are many contentious issues that need to be considered in this regard:

  1. By supplying rice at Rs. 3 per kg, wheat at Rs. 2 per kg and coarse cereals at Rs. 1 per kg to the target groups, the government is set to raise its subsidy bill by Rs. 1,24,000 crores which is supposed to burn a huge hole in the government’s pocket and widen the already huge fiscal deficit. With the major economies of the world facing a slowdown, lack of preparedness and adequate resources to finance its deficit might have a detrimental effect on the growth of the Indian economy.

  2. There is an urgent need to reform the Public Distribution System and revitalise the agricultural sector. Before rolling out a new programme, the government should ensure plugging of leakages and pilferage and at the same time create adequate storage facilities to safeguard its food supplies.

  3. Identification of the targeted beneficiaries continues to a subject of debate and contention. A slight change in the identification criteria of the poverty line can have a huge implication on a large number of families. In many states, the cases of fraudulent BPL ration cards are rampant and the benefits of the government’s schemes seldom reach the poor. We are yet to devise a suitable method to bring all the eligible individuals on record which has led to the diversion of food grains to open market by unscrupulous agents.

  4. As the government aims to procure large quantities of food grains to meet the targets of the proposed bill, the household budgets of the non-beneficiaries may be adversely affected as there might be an unprecedented rise in the prices of food grains in the open market.

It is therefore incumbent on the government to analyse the long term consequences of such measures and not merely adopt them with a myopic view of securing its vote bank. The whole chain of food distribution needs to be strengthened structurally so that the new schemes do not meet the same fate as the old ones or are rendered ineffective with time. Any framing of food security must take into account the implication it may have on society. The government should look beyond its political and economic considerations if it actually wants to rid India of hunger and malnutrition.



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Shreyans Jain said...


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