Saturday, 3 August 2013

WHY FOOD SECURITY IS A MALADY AND NOT A PANACIA



The President has approved Food security ordinance which will secure atleast 75% of rural household and 50 % of urban household with quality food grains at nominal prices.. The bill seeks to tread on the path of right based approach that will guarantee that no poor sleeps hungry or no child faces malnutrition or under nutrition. There has been wide ranging criticism about the bill and people are engaging in rhetoric for different reasons ranging from political as well as economic constraints. I want to sum all of them here

1. It promises 5 Kg of food grains (wheat, rice and cereals) per person per month subject to a maximum of 25 Kg per household. However studies pointed out that a person requires atleast 10.7 Kg of food grains per month for a sustainable food needs. The FSB least fills the appetite of the people.

2. Most of the people have a desire for diversification of food basket which includes fruits and protein rich food like egg, meat, milk etc. FSB does not include any of these.

3. It has been pointed out by different studies that malnutrition and stunted growth of children are not the product of non-availability of food but also a indicator of sanitation, drinking water etc. FSB does not address this problem.

4. There are considerable loopholes and delivery gaps in PDS (public distribution system). Without plugging those loopholes and computerization of PDS, there will be large diversion of food grains to the market. This situation will be exploited by ration shop owners and political vested interest.

5. The impact of FSB on economy is wide ranging. When the growth is down to less than 5% of GDP, there is an urgent need to chart out a road map of fiscal consolidation in order to revive the economy. FSB will put an additional burden of some 50,000 crore on the exchequer in the form of storage capacity building, more additional requirement of technological improvement for maintaining the distribution and identification of beneficiaries.

6. There has not been much improvement in agricultural practices and irrigation land in under constant threat from industrial lobby for acquisition. Further the moratorium recommended by Supreme Court appointed Technical Advisory Committee on field trials of Bt crops will restraint exponential growth of the food production.
7. There is also lack of clarity on the part of government about the criteria of identification of beneficiaries. Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) is still in process and will take atleast 1 year. Until then elections will be over and it will hardly be able to sail through.

These factors are poised to be great impediments in the implementation of this historic scheme. 

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