The Food Security Bill was passed on Monday night in Lok Sabha, hardly eight months before the 2014 general election and main opposition BJP termed it as the ‘vote security bill’
The Food Security Bill was passed on Monday night in Lok Sabha, hardly eight months before the 2014 general election.
Attacking the government, main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party hit hard during the debate in the lower house, saying the bill has been brought into picture with an eye on the forthcoming elections.
BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi termed the bill as vote security bill and not the food security bill and raised several faults, which needed to be put rightly.
Joshi shot several questions to the government as to how are they going to ensure food security to people, who would be the beneficiaries, will it be based on the purchasing power, the calorific value or nutrition and most importantly where are funds going to flow in for the implementation of the bill worth nearly $20 billion?
BJP claimed that this step is an effort to deceive people and a tactic to win the elections arriving next year.
The plan is basically to supply cheap food grains to the poor. As formulated by the government, they will sell wheat and rice at subsidised rate to 67 percent of the country’s population of 1.2 billion.
As part of the scheme, grains amount to five kilograms per person per month would be provided, which includes rice at rupees 3 per kg to the poorest people, which is less than 10 percent of current retail rates, wheat at rupees 2 per kg and coarse cereals at rupees 1 per kg.
Lets have a look at the positive and negative aspects of the scheme.
Talking about the positive points—firstly, women will be made head of the family, which is a very positive step. Secondly, special maternity benefits like free meal for every pregnant woman and lactating mothers six months after child birth will be provided. Additional allowance of Rupees 6000 will be given in instalments as maternity benefits. Thirdly, special privileges will be granted for children under different age groups like free meals, etc.
However, the negative points still remain heavy over the positive ones.
Firstly, the cost of this bill as projected by government is rupees 1.25 lakh crores, which will have a big blow to the current fiscal deficit. Besides inflation fears, the rise in grant bill could distress government’s ability to contain its fiscal deficit.
Secondly, the decision to classify a beneficiary has been left on individual states to decide and this could lead to large regional disparities, as a person not entitled for these benefits in one state may be suitable for the same in other state.
This would create another chance for corrupt officials and ministers to illegally store the grains and make shortage of grains as an excuse.
As reported by Reuters, according to the United Nations data, India is home to a quarter of the world’s hungry poor, despite being one of the biggest food producers and experiencing years of rapid economic growth.
Thirdly, with such high procurement of grains by government, little will be left for open market, which would create demand-supply difference, leading to rise in prices and consequently resulting in inflation.
Fourthly, as the government will procure more food grains, farmers may be deterred from growing cash crops.
Fifth, the government will require borrowing huge amount of money from banks to finance this major project. The banks will lend more to the government, less will be left for the general public, which indeed will hinder the growth in private sector, resulting in unemployment, less production and more imports from outside India, directly putting pressure on our foreign exchange.
So, the question remains that will this bill provide security to the poor or will it add on the burden on the shoulders of the government as well as the common man?