Food Security: Gamechanger or Disaster?
From The Editor’s Desk: “It’s Narendra Modi, who stalled our much-ambitious pro-poor ‘Food Security Bill’ in the Parliament, but we won’t give in. We will ensure food guarantee to over 80 crore people of India,” said Food Minister KV Thomas, receiving tacit applause from his president Sonia Gandhi, who rolled out the ‘Food Security Scheme’ in Delhi. Although the Congress failed to pass the bill in the Parliament on Rajiv Gandhi’s birth anniversary on August 20, the party launched it in Delhi, Haryana and Uttarakhand. Later, the bill was passed in Lok Sabha with BJP’s support although no amendment from the opposition parties were accepted.
Sonia Gandhi’s dream project, which is considered as a gamechanger in many circles, may turn out to be a disaster, as it was launched when the Indian Economy was in dire straits. The scheme was rolled out on a day when the Indian Rupee breached 64 mark against the US Dollar and 100 mark against the British Pound. And, a day after the bill was passed by Lok Sabha, Rupee breached 68 mark against the USD and 106 mark against the British Pound, while the gold prices crossed Rs 34,500 mark. Is it the right time to push the Food Security Bill at this juncture? Or, our political bosses just care about votes, without having a vision to choose the appropriate time for its implementation?
The scheme promises 5 kg of rice, wheat and coarse cereals per month per person at a fixed price of Rs 3, 2, 1, respectively from state governments under the targeted PDS, which is definitely a welcome step. However, it will cost the government around Rs.1,24,723 crore initially with an additional burden of Rs.23,800 crore. Is India ready for this when the economy is in a mess and we are suffering reverses in every sphere. With 2014 elections around the corner, this scheme may make the middle class bleed further and make the poor idle and deprived of their basic rights.
The Congress Party may want to bring a revolution with the Food Security Bill and hope to encash it to their electoral benefits. But, hopefully they are not committing a historic blunder, which will not give them another chance to repent and undo the damage the Indian Economy may suffer. What India need today is a robust plan to put the economy on the right track and make things affordable for everyone irrespective of the caste, creed, religion and communities. Every Indian has been at the receiving end, thanks to price rise, high inflation and rising unemployment. They need a balm to heal their wounds, but the Food Security Scheme may aggravate their suffering further.