Speaking at an election rally in Chhattisgarh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that his government will extend the free ration scheme, which was scheduled to end in December this year, by another five years. To be sure, the announcement is not entirely surprising. This newspaper had reported on more than one occasion that such an extension was being considered beyond the current deadline of December 2023.
This newspaper has also held the view that the government’s intervention on the food security front during the pandemic and the decision to sweeten the withdrawal of additional food grain entitlements during the pandemic by waiving the nominal charges that had to be paid for National Food Security Act beneficiaries was a progressive decision. This has helped millions of poor secure their basic calorie requirements and protected them against inflation in prices of basic cereals. The latter is a serious concern at the current juncture.
Of course, the fact that the PM announced it in an election rally and has made a promise that is beyond the term of the current government shows that food security continues to be a critical driver of politics in India. Spending money on food security, in this newspaper’s view, is a much better use of taxpayer money than many other policies that encourage short-term palliatives for structural problems (such as farm loans).
Having said this, the government would do well to marry the country’s food security framework with a sustainability framework. India’s food security net stands on the twin pillars of state procurement and distribution under the NFSA. There is more than enough evidence to show that all is not well with our procurement policies which have become a serious threat to the sustainability of agricultural and non-agricultural ecosystems in key Green Revolution states such as Punjab. The politics of fixing this problem is far more complicated.
Continue reading with HT Premium Subscription
Daily E Paper I Premium Articles I Brunch E Magazine I Daily Infographics