We have a 17 per cent rise in food prices
Already there is double digit inflation
There is a world economic crisis
The G-20 talked of reducing deficits in nations’ budgets
Now, Sonia Gandhi leads a food security advisory council!
Now also, there is going to be a change in the agriculture and food and consumer’s portfolio
So many developments and uncertainties.
So, what is new for Indian agriculture and food security?
It is one thing to talk routinely. That is what the Central government is doing.
The PM went abroad and talked of many things. He called for inclusive growth. That is his latest mantra.
What is inclusive and what is exclusive?
There are any numbers of learned treatises on the way the democracies work these days.
Democracies, from Singapore to India to UK and USA, says a noted writer, one who has lived in Singapore and travelled all over the countries, including Russia, he talks about and says in conclusion that one dominant characteristic of modern day democracies is that progressively they leave out the poor from their ambit.
This is no great insight but a damning indictment of the modern day democracies and also modern day capitalist development models.
In the UK and to some extent in the USA, for example, there is this persistent unemployment, joblessness, in the UK, there is, as the latest issue of The Economist writes, a great deal of persistent poverty!+Severe poverty, however measured and one measure. Income below 60 % of the national median, is given in the Economist article, the UK households in relative poverty are higher in UK than all but six of the 27 members of the European Union.
So, let us in India not be misled by the government, be it as the voice of the PM or the voice of any other politician or expert or experts say that this government will ensure food for all is a myth.
There will be widespread poverty and deprivation and those people, famously, ironically living on Rs.20 a day, would be millions and so many crores. There are any number of the findings of any number of the committees and whatever be the criteria, you can’t beat the state politicians who promise to sell rice at Rs.one and Sonia Gandhi Council only promises rice only at Rs.3 only!
So, what is the big deal?
Money? Yes or no?
Where is Pranab Mukerjee?
What is his budget deficit like?
So, money is not a problem? Or, still a problem?
Nobody is talking!
Let us be clear, the issue of poverty, issue of food subsidies is a huge one.
So, why talk of food security bill and its various ifs and buts.
Even if you really manage to provide the food are Rs.3 a kg, it is estimated the food subsidy bill will shoot up to Rs.84,399 crores. There will always be the cynics, if not the genuine critics who would dismiss this sum as peanuts when you are asked to see the spectrum corruption was simply as much as Rs.60, 000 crores!
So, we have to have the big picture always before us if we want really to serve the cause of the poor. India is a large country, the large mass of the poor and the hungry live here. India ranks in the Global Hunger Index 66 among the 88 countries, right?
So, we have to ensure first good governance. Good governance means, in our view, ensuring the democratic norms and democratic practices are observed in our governance.
How many can touch their hearts and say this is what the present government is sincerely attempting to do?
The UPA-II must pull up its socks and must develop some moral courage to talk the turhs, the harsh truths.
Otherwise what we are seeming to do is cosmetic touches and trying to postpone things till the next elections.
That will what amount to be our current exercises of power and use of our privileges in the National Advisory Council.
It is the political system, his polity, the political values that hold the key to overcoming the issues of poverty and deprivation and what we need first is the compassion in the polity and society.
Every country has its problems and priorities.
IN the USA Barack Obama has his own priorities.
IN the UK too there are their own priorities.
There are issues of runaway pays for the superrich in both the advanced countries.
In India too the top salaries are too high and the take home salaries of the Indian corporate sector is also too high.
This perception directly hits our own sense of what is fairness and what is justice.
In UK, there is this new realisation about poverty and how the poor are affected.
They now talk not of statistics, no ,not like in India they talk of rates of growth etc. They seem to have become a bit cynical about this talk of statistics.
Instead they talk of national sentiments, the Conservatives, alike the Liberal Democrats, there is no hypocrisy whatever there, and they instead talk of the very Tory sense of the noblesse oblige, others, other than the Tories, talk of Christian conscience!
So, what is he Indian equivalent?
The Hindu dharma? Or any other secular equivalents?
Any sense of justice, any sense of new commitment?
It is for the persons now engaged in the affairs of the country to come with his or her own equivalent!
As far as we in this magazine is concerned we would only call for more transparent governance, adherence to democratic norms, democratic procedures, more participation in Parliamentary debates, nominations and elections to Parliament and the Rajya Sabha through fair selection criteria.
Yes, there is no alternative to these eternal qualities and values.
Good political leadership is critical to ensure a fair distribution of opportunities and justice.
As of now, poverty as such can’t be directly attacked and any one criteria to determine those who are entitlements, below poverty or above poverty can be sabotaged, as already done in Tamil Nadu and elsewhere by irresponsible populism and thereby you sabotage the very system of governance.
Electoral reforms are as much critical as Constitutional reforms, Lok Ayukta for all states, Lok Pal at the Centre. If these suggestions are anathema to anyone ,he or she should come out with a more credible alternative.
There are no simple ways to tackle poverty and ensure growth in all sectors through a wide grassroots level institutions. That is why agriculture is held to be the very basic foundation for economic growth and prosperity.