By Shamim Zakaria:
It’s a stereotyped mindset that speaking about poverty, malnutrition and hunger, the image of African countries and people residing there comes to our minds. Speaking about India, even though we claim to be on the path of development, it’s a pretension by our politicians from varied parties that poverty is on the verge of extinction and very soon it’s likely to be eradicated. However, despite calling ourselves self sufficient and a country devoid of hunger, studies suggests that the condition of India is far worse than the African countries in terms of poverty. According to the World Bank, the no. of underweight children in India is highest among all other countries and is double than that of Sub-Saharan Africa.
Keeping this scenario in mind, the UPA-II’s Food Security Bill finally got a green signal in the Parliament, first by the Lok Sabha on August 26th and then after a 10 hour long debate on 2nd September by the Rajya Sabha. Certainly, any concerned and responsible citizen who really wants the problems of starving Indians to be extirpated would never argue against it. However, a detailed study of the bill would perhaps force one to think that the bill is certainly of sole political interest to the UPA government and it would barely solve any problems of the countries starving population. However, implementing it would in a way increase the country’s economic woes, further causing it to tremble.
Firstly, all are well aware that 2014 is knocking at the door i.e. time for the Lok Sabha Polls is nearing. This perhaps gives a reason to think, why only at this point of time did the government become voracious for the bill and implementing it. When the government first laid the bill in the Lok Sabha, the opposition disagreed to certain provisions and wanted its amendment. The government at once made up its mind for the amendments and agreed to all the demands of the opposition, without any discontentment. This is a clear indicative towards the government’s hastiness to secure its vote and that the bill is not any measure for securing the country’s future. So, perhaps calling it a vote security bill won’t make any difference.
A thorough study of the Food Security Bill shows that in the entire draft of 16 pages, only the initial 1-2 pages speak about the provisions of the bill, whereas the entire bill is flooded with strategies about how it will function. A point in the bill says there will be reformation of the PDS and a grievance redressal system would be formed; there will be provision for registering complains via internet, call centers, help lines and in the form of letters to the district and state forums. Now, the fact is that the food security bill is directed towards the poverty stricken ones, so how can a person living in the state of hunger and extreme poverty use the internet or the telephonic medium to complain. It’s the person’s affliction that matters to him and the knee wrenching process of complains doesn’t bother him in any way. As a result, his poverty and starvation will continue. The food security bill thus failing to make any sort of impact. This clearly suggests that the grievance redressal system is an absolute flawed one. And one can’t certainly argue that there won’t be any sort of irregularities while implementing the promises in the bill, as under the tenure of UPA and congress, corruption is a regular course of action!
Speaking on the context of the country’s economy, even the Prime Minister this time was bound to open his mouth, agreeing to the fact that India’s economic scenario is facing a tough time. Though the government says that, the bill will add up only 25,000 crore to the existing amount spent on country’s food security, however, as per the calculations of some economists, implementation of the bill would add up to Rs. 2,00,000 crore towards the country’s existing amount spent for food security, and not just 25,000 crore. This will further add up to the country’s economic woes. How, just after passing of the bill, the rupee has gone further down, is a clear indication of how the bill might trigger the economy to tremble further in the days to come.
Lastly, studies suggest that the country lacks an ample storage facility which might cause the stored food purchased under the Food Security Bill to decay, that ought to create an artificial food scarcity in the country.
The stated facts, in a crystal clear manner, discloses the government’s motives as taking shield of the bill and the poverty stricken Indians, the UPA is simply playing vote politics and securing its future for the 2014 polls.