Game-changer or vote-catcher?
The Food Security Bill passed by the Lok Sabha Monday night may or may not prove to be a game-changer for the ruling coalition but a section of the...
The Food Security Bill passed by the Lok Sabha Monday night may or may not prove to be a game-changer for the ruling coalition but a section of the Opposition views it as a “vote-securing Bill’; but for 67% of India’s poor the measure, if implemented with the required degree of transparency and commitment, can easily prove to be a life-changer. Of course, reservations about the utility of the measure remain, and some of them are quite valid. But, overall, it is a long overdue measure even though its timing is suspect.
That the Centre should have thought of introducing it with parliamentary elections round the corner is apt to be interpreted as a tactical move to convince the poor that, however belatedly, their concerns are being addressed. Some Opposition parties, including those believed to be close to the ruling coalition, termed it a “poll gimmick” in the Lok Sabha; some others argued that there was nothing “universal” about the scheme because it targeted only some sections of the poor. The former charge may well be correct, but is there anything in the Constitution that prohibits initiation of a welfare measure on the eve of elections? Therefore, the Opposition would have been justified in criticizing the timing of the introduction of the Bill but not its validity.
Nobody denies that the economy is in a mess that shows no signs of ending. It is no less true that huge stocks of food grains have reportedly been lost because of improper and inadequate storage facilities. Even so, equitable distribution of available food grains stocks among the poor cannot be opposed, elections or no elections. Over years the country has witnessed several cases of starvation deaths, especially in villages. If food grains can somehow be reached to such multitudes, it would probably be the first tangible step India will have taken towards feeding the poor.