After much humdrum and a large number of amendments in the drafting stage, the UPA government finally introduced the National Food Security Bill, proposing to bring radical change in the way food distribution is handled in India. The bill extends a major relief to the common man who falls under ‘eligible households’ under the category of ‘Priority Household.’ This is defined in Section 15 of the proposed National Food Security Act and in Antyodaya Anna Yojna referred in sub section (1) of Section 3 of the Act.
Under the Act, there is a provision to provide 5kg of food grains per person per month to those who are identified under the scheme. This will be provided at a highly subsidized rate as referred in Section I of the State Government under the Targeted Public Distribution System. Additionally, the bill also proposes that all households under the Antyodaya Anna Yojna shall be entitled to 35kg of food grains per month per household at subsidized rates as mentioned in the schedule.
With much in store for the Aam Aadmi, at least what the National Food Security Bill promises, it is a matter to see how much relief it brings to the common man. Or is the bill a marketing gimmick to draw votes? Does it come as a relief to the government as well or it is “exaggerated?” The Bill, and eventually the act of the UPA government, have been criticized from different sectors and is indeed a matter of debate that is currently surging the political and economic scenario of India.
P. Chidambaram, the finance minister, has promised Rs. 10,000 crore as an incremental cost to implement the National Food Security Bill. As proposed, 50% of urban poor and 75% of rural population, almost 800 million people, shall be entitled to 5kg of food grain per month for a highly subsidized rate. Rice will be available at Rs. 3 per kg, whereas wheat and cereal will be available for Rs. 2 and Rs. 1 respectively. Such unbelievable subsidies tend to come as a great relief to the common man who has always been a prey to unscrupulous and illegitimate food handling in the country.
However, it seems that the government can choke in response of high subsidy burdens that tend to follow with the enactment of the Food Security Act. The central government has proposed to cost the exchequer Rs. 1 trillion annually to pass the Bill, but according to experts, this number can go up much higher. Furthermore, the rate of subsidies has also been overtly exaggerated. This puts the UPA government in question – whether the Bill is being deliberately pushed beyond its capacity to gain votes? Is the existing mechanism compatible enough to make sure that the Act gets implemented successfully to provide permanent relief to common man?
At first glance, the National Food Security Bill might sound to be irresistibly tempting for the Aam Aadmi. But as we delve deeper, it seems that the central government is trying to push it too hard, even if it goes beyond capacity. And that’s where the proposed Bill seems to be yet another gimmick. After all, to what extent the UPA government can continue with this exorbitant subsidy burden, it’s a matter to wait and watch.
Image Source : IANS