Is it an honest step or election rhetoric?
The real players won’t speak!
That is the significance of the bill!
Yes, in India, lately, with the UPA-II is facing problems over certain sensitive legislations and the Opposition, unexpectedly sensing some opportunity to block crucial legislation, the UPA-II desperate for some radical action. That is the reason behind a rash of rights entitlement bills!
The right for free and compulsory education, the right (yes, almost it is also a first time right) for setting up foreign universities bill and now the right for food security!
Yes, even the women’s reservation bill is also a sort of right of women for equality, so too the very Congress party’s attempt to be on the side of the aam aadmi, the rural employment guarantee act and other such left-oriented acts and schemes.
This left orientation for the ruling coalition or more specifically for the Congress party is welcome and this might produce some good, sometimes lasting good as well.
Any such social welfare schemes are all in the realm of a welfare state and India is for all practical purposes a welfare state of the Western European states.
But where India as it is evolving today differs from the Western models is that India is a big country, geographically and demographically. That means the large segment of the poor and the malnourished. Also, the country is poised to take off as a big economy and that is where we are at present.
For India to become a big economy needs certain other basic pre-requisites. We need basic industries, iron and steel and other metals and manufacturing industries. India also succeeded in a surprising manner in the IT revolution and that is where we are at the moment.
The private sector economy is thriving and also pushing for other changes.
So, we are almost in the midst of an infrastructure revolution.
Yet, there are the social and poverty issues.
Everyone says, we have too many experts and committees to tell us how many poor are there in the country.
The Planning Commission, the Tendulkar Committee, the Saxsena committee and so on.
The food security bill draft says precisely, as the empower group of ministers noted in their minutes dated March 12,2010 that the food security means only food grains security and that too only rice and wheat and that too 25 kg only at some fixed price,Rs.2 for rice,Rs.3 for wheat!
No sooner the draft was prepared than the dissenting voicing erupted!
The body mass index (BMI) of the malnourished of the various sections of people almost puts as much as nearly 70 per cent of the Indian population near poor, or near famine-induced malnutrition!
So, to cut the story short, the food security bill if and when enacted, might prove to be one more bill or act that might get lost in the process of implementation!
Now to sound less than humane is uncivilised in such a sensitive issue.
So, we have to hold our own individual emotions in check.
At best, we might say that luck be to those who get the act implemented.
Why we sound cynical?
For some valid reasons.Here are those valid reasons in our perspective.
The last two issues of the magazine Tehelka, readers might have seen them, carry pages and pages of enough information and data on what is currently wrong with our agriculture.
The first issue carries a 10 page interview and write-up on our agriculture minister Mr.Sharad Pawar. Pawar, everyone knows, is a powerful politician and also one of the richest politicians. One can’t find fault with his own riches but the point here is that he is also a well-qualified agriculture minister.
Yet, we find that under his regime Indian agriculture faces some of the worst failures. One of the worst changes, we imported sugar, we reached a stage from being number one producer, number one importer, of sugar, also wheat and even rice. There is record number of farmers’ suicides. Yet, Pawar talks with authority and of course he cites statistics to back up his policies to defend himself and his policies.
It is for the others, the people and experts and those concerned with Indian agriculture to say whether Pawar is a successful agriculture minister or a failure.
In the next issue of Tehelka, there is an 18 page write-up on the farmers’ suicides.
The pages are very heavy, makes our hearts heavy with emotions and the tragedy of the families and the moving pictures tell their own story.
What the Prime Minister has got to say on our agriculture?
What Sonia Gandhi has got to say on our agriculture?
Our own aam aadmi are these farmers, these rural people, these poor and the malnourished children.
The current issue of Frontline (April 22, 2010) again is a heavy issue, carrying 21 pages of stories on malnutrition and poverty.
Very disturbing statistics and we can’t even quote them! Such distressing stories and such distressing pictures!
So, we ask: what chance or chances are there for the food security bill, if and when passed, get delivering results on the ground?
All this distressing realities still should not deter us. We emphasise, from passing the bill and implementing the same, come what may!
Our viewpoints are these only.
1. Make agriculture investments a top priority.
2. Make the institutional reforms, national and regional level, say, co-operative credit system delivers timely loans and timely insurance payments.
3. First food self-sufficiency should be our goal.
4. Then, distribution. Already PDS is there. In some states it is too populistic and we have to make it fool–proof.
5. Yes, imports, if becomes necessary, we have to import.
6. Only those who don’t have a larger picture would talk of imports as an easy option. There is not enough food in the world. Every other country, from Africa to Middle East to other countries, including the big ones like China and Russia need food imports.
7. So, make food production top priority. Make food production viable.
8. Talk less on rate of growth; talk more on the quality of growth!
9. Don’t imagine to make food security election rhetoric.
10. Dont make the National Advisory Council a decorative body. Bring in more people for their first time experience from the fields. Too many urbanites, retired ones at that, are crowding in Delhi! This is too bad and to some extent intolerable!
Image Source : thehindu.com