national food security: A boon or a bane

Written by Meghalaya Times. Posted in Writers Column

Patal B Das
When any scheme of national importance, pertaining to welfare of general population of India, it needs to be simple in nature, transparent, accountable and dependable. One such recent  ordinance in the name of ‘Food Security’ announced by the Government of India  has already been implemented in some Congress ruled state and is in the process of implementation in some more states amid debate and discussion  over the issue in both houses of Parliament. A question has definitely risen in the minds of people of India that once the bill been accented by the Hon’ble President of India, then what was the necessary for further debate/discussion on the same issue. The reasons behind, the deficiency existed in the ordinance might have aggravated the opposition to show reluctant attitude regarding implementation of the ordinance in their respective states until and unless proper addition/alteration made in the said ordinance. As per constitution of India, where general welfare of the people of the nation involved, it can’t be monopolized but to be taken into consideration democratically. Also, I  would like to mention that the present Government in its fag end, when failed to protect the rights of its own people on different issues, then how the people of India can expect a full proof commitment towards ‘right to food’. In the present circumstances, I being a writer and critic on any issue pertaining to welfare of the people of the nation, after going deep into the said ordinance, felt to express my views on the impact of ordinance in the years to come for interest of readers.

 Roti (Food), Kapda (Cloth) and Mokan (Shelter) are the three vital factors basically required for survival of mankind.  As a matter of course, in absence of any factor, the equation of survival for a mankind remains incomplete. Considering the same analogy, the representatives of people of India, at the epicenter of legislation could able to frame out a bill in the form of ‘National Food Security’ (NFS) for Indians, which was also accented by the Hon’ble President of India. Considering the rural and urban population, the benefit is almost extended to 63-65 percent population in India. In common sense the scheme ‘Food Security’ means the people of India wherever they live will have the right to food (raw material) but against some nominal price. It is nothing new to the Government. The ordinance is simply a transition form of ‘Ship to Mouth’ existed during last 60’s to ‘Right to Food’ in 2013, surpassing the older act with the later. Since it is a part of welfare programme, a doubt has risen in the mind of people of India, at present covered under PDS, whether the scheme is going to be implemented at the cost of PDS which is in vogue at present. The PDS system entails both APL and BPL families to avail the benefits on some edible items on subsidised rates. Once the PDS is in vogue, why thus the Central Government chosen the path of second tire distribution of edible item through NFS? Does it not affecting the status of the county and its population? Or, is it in other way harbouring some vested interest in the minds policy makers at the apex constitutional body of India? Moreover, bringing a law regarding issue of Ration Card in the name of female member – considering head of family – will simply malign the prestige of traditional patriarchal society system existing in the country. It is sure that this will bring more atrocities against women folk in the country thereby encouraging the man of house to get rid of his partial responsibilities towards family. In my opinion, the concept of the ordinance is not a full proof one.
As per unofficial data released by the Planning Commission of Indian (through media), shows that if a person’s income is more than 1000 Rupees per month, he/she would be able to sustained a family consisting of 5 members in regards to procure of food materials leaving besides other requirements. And thus, the particular family can’t be termed as BPL family. In that case, as presumed, at present in India more than 90 percent of population will fall under the category of APL. While substantiating, the Planning Commission’s observation, once a Minister of Assam recently said “Rupees20 is enough for eight persons to have complete food for a day”. It was simply equivocal and unconventional statement.  Anyway, without giving any importance to such sarcastic statement, as a matter of fact, the unofficial data released by Planning Commission of India while defining APL family then where lays the necessity to supply food grains at such low cost to almost 65 percent population of India? In case there is abundant growth of food grains in the county, it would be logical to decontrol all types edible raw grains/cereal in the county in order to bring down the inflation rate. At the same time the excess food grain, if any, may be exported to other countries as per stipulated norms, thereby reducing the burden of external borrowing. The statistical data released by the Government of India in the year 2012, given a view that India had emerged as world’s top rice exporter in the world, and therefore, in that case, there should not be any issue of commitment by the present Government at the centre that no person in India would go to bed hungry. Having such potential and quantum of growth of food materials in the country in comparison with population growth, the Union Government could have taken appropriate steps by bringing an ordinance regarding maintenance of supply chain to all the remotest part of the nation, instead of spoon feeding. At the same time the Central Government need to explore all possibilities to educate the farmer (the back bone of the nation) to grow more food items without disturbing the God gifted natural environment, thereby making the active farmer  of the nation competent enough in regards to earning.
 In this context, I felt it appropriate to mention here that the revenue earned by the Government against export of food grains could have been utilised to educate the farmers towards know how of latest technology used by developed nation in agricultural sectors. It is a matter of shock that the think tanks of India’s economy without consideration of any future impact, deliberately bringing India and its people from poor to poorer stage. At this juncture, it is appropriate to mention that the ‘Food Security Ordinance’, in future will take a shape from ‘Garibi Hatao’ to ‘Garibi Bharo’ nation. My personal presumption dictates me to cite that in course of time, said ordinance will become a flop show in the part of present Government. At the same time, the country may expect some more scams during execution of the controversial scheme.  In my opinion it is sure that the present form of FSO is going to invite more chaos until and unless the opposers’ views are met with appropriately. It was also surprised to note that the said bill, notwithstanding reluctant approach of oppositions in both the houses of Parliament, has taken a shape to roll out easily and became operative in some states in India recently.
It is also a matter of surprise that when an ordinance comes into effect then why it is for certain percentage of population of India? Is it not a cupidity attitude showing by the Central Government?  Moreover, consequent upon the issue of ordinance, the ruling coalition (UPA II) at the centre, conveyed to its allied Government machinery at the state level to arrange implementation of the scheme on or before August 20, coinciding with birth anniversary of the  then Prime Minister of India Late Rajiv Gandhi.  During last week of last month, the Congress Vice President while speaking on Food Security Bill contemplated that once the bill is fully implemented, nobody in India would go to bed hungry. At the same time he also commented to all Congress Party leaders called in him “people of India have been given the right for ‘food’, now it is their turn to translate the benefit into action”. As per said leader, the word ‘food’ is inappropriate as the supply of raw materials can’t be termed as ‘food’ until and unless it is cooked and converted to eatable items. There lies a question over the issue that where are the other ingredients which the poorest of the poor people in India can’t afford to buy. In that case the ordinance passed by the Union Government is not perfect in nature. It is my presumption that when the Parliament election is in the offing, the ruling Government at the centre has been making efforts to  insert a  ‘lollypop’ in the mouth of poorest of the poor persons  of the country  to keep their  mouth shut for sometimes. However, in the present circumstances this can’t be considered as an election stunt, because it was an agenda in the Common Minimum Programme of the present Government.
It was all about Roti, projecting the availability of raw material only. If, at all the present Government interested to extend help for survival of  poor people in the country, the other factors mentioned at the outset need to be taken care of. Lakhs and lakhs of poor people in the country have been living under semi-naked condition. These people are even unable to earn just sufficient money for procurement of food items, what to talk about shelter (Mokan). Thereafter, the third component required for survival of people in a humanistic way is shelter (Mokan). Crores of poor people in India, throughout the period of their survival have been spending nights (being rest time) under public sheds, like railway platform, flyover, etc. etc. When the present Union Government showing an overwhelming sympathetic attitude towards the poor people in India for their survival with dignity, it is the proper time for the Government to find out other ways and means in order to bring smiles in the faces of the  poor, thereby taking India at the top position of all developing nations. 
In this context, for interest of readers, I like to mention that our Nobel laureate Kabiguru Rabindranath Tagore mentioned in one of his poem; “Dhana-dhayane Pushpe Bhara Amader ai Bashundhara – Tahar Majhe Ache Desh Ek Sakal Desher Sera………” (In this wealthy world, we are having a nation, full of resources and best in the world). The poet, not for sake of writing poem but finding enormous wealth, fertility of land and unity of the people of the land expressed his views, from the core of his heart in the form of a poem. The facts mention by the great poet can’t be denied. We the people of this nation failed to translate the poet’s views into action; rather due to wrong polity, the poor people become poorer day-by-day, month-by-month, year-by-year and so on. The ‘Garibi Hatao’ mantra once announced by the Iron lady of India, the then Prime Minister, Late Smti. Indira Gandhi has now turned into ‘Garib Bharo’. Since couple of decades back from now, our country has been progressing in different sectors but lacking behind in solving some of the common problems directly affecting the livelihood of general people of the country.


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