(Dr. krishan Bir Chaudhary)
The Bill uses terms like ‘priority’ and ‘general’ category households that are yet to be defined. The name of BPL Census has been changed to Socio-economic and Caste Census [SECC] but it has yet to start in Bihar and UP. The SECC-2002 list was due in 2007 but has not yet been published which is intriguing. In fact there is a nation-wide criticism of Government’s attempt to redefine poverty on multiple-dimension as an excuse to exclude as many of the ‘useless eaters’ as they can.
It is not clear how the priority sector would be covered. If the total ‘slum population’ for example in urban India is 93 million, then 40.53 million will be left out. A question arises: Is the Government treating this segment as food and nutrition secure and if so, on what basis? The second question is: if the Bill seeks to ensure adequate nutrition, why is the government not defining what should be the nutritional benchmark? Protein and energy do not cover the entire matrix.
Storage problem itself is a huge issue. Since the entire TPDS scheme hinges on storage capacity and just-in-time delivery, the Bill is silent on strengthening this aspect; instead, decentralized procurement and information management is given far more importance. The anomaly here is that 2010 data of storage capacity was given as 72.8 MMT but now the total available capacity is shown as 60.3 MMT and that too back-dated; so, 12.5 MMT of capacity has simply disappeared from official records.
There are essentially two thumb rules to determine the storage capacity: (a) 1/3 of food grains produced, and (b) available surplus food grains [total production minus household and local consumption plus post harvest losses=surplus] and this is for supply side macro planning. At micro level in Class 1-4 cities and towns another network of physical storage capacity and supply chain management would be required if the provisions of the FSB are to be implemented with any degree of certainty and efficiency. From stakeholder consultations it is obvious that all nine states are short of storage capacity in urban areas; hard data supports this. In rural areas, the situation is not even worth talking about.
The real behind the scene agenda is (a) convert the entitlement into cash equivalent, not food, (b) Since India's food growing capacity is being rapidly compromised, this government will make arrangements with Food MNCs who have huge unsold stocks of rice and wheat, especially the USA. stocks of genetically engineered rice [especially in the US] and contaminated or inferior wheat...and that will be sold off to India; and (c) They will exclude all those who do not possess UID [Unique biometrics based Identification] card.
Key UN-agencies are directly involved and the plan seems to have been dictated by the multinational food grain dealers with the backing of the US Government.
BUT I am quite sure that the people will wake up to the UPA-II fraud. The fact that there was hardly any meaningful debate in the Parliament shows that there was a tacit agreement between ruling and opposition parties....all of them have been silenced. More on this in my review article.
(Editorial : Kisan Ki Awaaz Magazine)