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5 things that the Food Bill does not tell you

Food Security Bill works on the principle of robbing Peter to pay Paul, but unfortunately, there are too few Peters and too many Pauls

Shishir Asthana  |  Mumbai 

Food Security Bill

The ruling UPA government has played its last trump card by bringing the Food Security Bill through the ordinance route. If it is able to push it through Parliament, they will take the credit and if they fail,the blame will be laid on the opposition for stalling it.

For a government which cannot wash away successive corruption charges against it, this Food Bill was considered to be its way of buying itself another term in office. But the damage to the economy will be irreparable.

Apart from the financial damage, the bill can create havoc structurally, just like MNREGA raised labour costs without increasing productivity or creating any capital assets.

Food Security Bill works on the principle of robbing Peter to pay Paul. But unfortunately, there are too few Peters who can be robbed and too many Pauls. Simply put, the bill is an added tax on the Peters of the country.

Following are the five things you need to know about the Food Security Bill. And following are the five things that the Food Security Bill does not tell you:

1) The cost of purchasing and stocking rice is Rs 18 per kg which will be distributed at Rs 3 per kg. In other words, Peter has to foot the bill of Rs 15 per kg on rice. Similar burden on other grains.

2) Government seeks to provide 62 million tonnes of grains per year. The bill that Peter will have to pick up on account of only the price differential is around Rs 93,000 cr, which is roughly 71% of the income tax collected by the government from Peter in the previous fiscal. In fact, Commission on Agricultural Costs and Prices has put the tab at Rs 6,00,000 crore over three years.

3) But who are the Pauls? Even the government does not know. Indicators for defining Paul is not in place. Government says state government will provide the list but the states do not have any such list. Government has constituted various committees to look at measures of poverty, but all have come up with different numbers.

4) How will Paul get his food? Through the existing leaky PDS system which drops 51 per cent of the food on the way. Government is also using direct cash transfer where PDS is not available. The govt is yet to arrive at a solution on providing banking access to areas where even a ration shop is not available.In any case,the direct cash transfer system has not really worked.It has more holes in it than the surface of the moon.\

5) What if there are floods or drought and the country cannot produce the required foodgrains? Well, Peter will have to pay in dollars to import it. Once you have made people addicted to Opium, you need to supply it else they will come knocking on your door.

While the world is keen on adding more Peters to reflect growth, the Food Security Bill looks to ensure that we become a nation of Pauls, waiting in queue for the government to provide them food.

HAVE YOUR SAY: Is the food security bill a case of political opportunism?

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First Published: Thu, July 04 2013. 13:21 IST