Top

Food security is just a beginning Hunger-free India is the goal ���

Food security is just a beginning Hunger-free India is the goal ���
Highlights

Union Food Minister K V Thomas is the Man of the Hour, as he is singularly responsible for translating Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s dream...

Union Food Minister K V Thomas is the Man of the Hour, as he is singularly responsible for translating Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s dream project of providing food security cover to the teeming millions of the Indian masses. Handpicked by Sonia Gandhi, Thomas was minister of state for food under Sharad Pawar, who was holding Cabinet charge of the portfolio. When Pawar shed Food portfolio during a reshuffle, K V Thomas was given independent charge of this crucial portfolio.

Rising to the occasion, Thomas is seen as one, who seized opportunity to transform the lives of tens of millions of people and affirm the commitment to their welfare and wellbeing. The food security cover seeks to make available rice at Rs 3 a kg, wheat at Rs 2 a kg and coarse grain at Re 1 a kg. It covers 75 per cent of the rural population and 50 per cent of the urban population and overall it covers 67 per cent of the population.

“Goal for the foreseeable future must be to wipe out hunger and malnutrition from the country. The Food Security Bill is only a beginning. As we move forward, we learn from experience and benefit from the constructive suggestions from the different states and political parties. This is not the end, but just a humble beginning towards achieving the goal of making India hunger-free. In free India, if anyone goes to bed on empty stomach, it is something totally unacceptable. That is the challenge and we are bracing to meet it in all real earnest,” Union Food Minister K V Thomas, in an exclusive interview to The Hans India, told Venkat Parsa.
There has been a strong criticism that when the monsoon session of parliament was round the corner, the Congress-led UPA Government has taken resort to Ordinance route. Your reaction?
Well, Ordinance is something that is provided for under the system of parliamentary democracy and it is not something extra-Constitutional, as it is being made out. An Ordinance is promulgated during the gap between two sessions of parliament. Anyway, parliament is neither bypassed, nor is it meant to be bypassed. When the next session of parliament is convened, it is to be replaced by a regular Bill. In fact, when we brought the Food Security Bill, we took on board the Opposition concerns and I moved several official Amendments to the Food Security Bill. There has been full-fledged discussion in the House. Then what is the objection to the Food Security Ordinance? The Ordinance was promulgated, so that food security law comes into force instantly from the date of promulgation of the Ordinance. In fact, it helped four Congress-ruled states of Delhi, Haryana, Uttarakhand and Rajasthan to roll out the food security programme on the occasion of the birth anniversary of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi on August 20. I see no contradiction at all.
There has been a lot of criticism from the Opposition against the National Food Security Bill. How do you react to it?
Goal for the foreseeable future must be to wipe out hunger and malnutrition from the country. The Food Security Bill is only a beginning. As we move forward, we learn from experience and benefit from the constructive suggestions from the different states and political parties. This is not the end, but just a humble beginning towards achieving the goal of making India hunger-free. In free India, if anyone goes to bed on empty stomach, it is something totally unacceptable. That is the challenge and we are bracing to meet it in all real earnest.
The BJP has claimed that its Chhattisgarh Model is there, which has been widely appreciated and could be replicated on the national level. Your reaction?
Every state has its own model. It is state-specific and cannot be used for replicating it at the national level. There is the Chhattisgarh model; there is the Tamil Nadu model; and there is the Kerala model. Every State has got its own model, but we cannot accept that as a whole. We will take all the plus points of every state. Chhattisgarh has a model, but that is a model suitable for Chhattisgarh; that may not be suitable for Kerala; that may not be suitable for Tamil Nadu. Tamil Nadu has a model, which may not be acceptable for Chhattisgarh. So, we have assessed the performance of the different PDS of all the States. When we go ahead with the implementation of the food security scheme, there can be lacunae; there can be blocks and we will find out solutions. Success of the Food Security Bill depends on how the Central Government and the state governments go hand-in-hand.
There have been demands for Universal PDS. How do you react to it?
The National Food Security Bill aims to provide food for the needy and vulnerable sections of society. Universal PDS is good in intent but impractical and unrealistic in implementation, as our procurement is not so high as to achieve universal PDS. Besides, let me clarify that food security programme does not seek to replace public distribution system (PDS). In fact, PDS will remain in place and it also needs to be revamped, to make it more effective. The Bill aims to make PDS more transparent and plug loopholes. Going by estimates, about 20-35 per cent leakages exist in PDS.
What is so special about Food Security Act?
As Congress president Sonia Gandhi has pointed out, the National Food Security Act is the fifth in the series of rights-based approach of empowerment revolution unleashed by her. This approach provides legal entitlements to people that puts pressure on the Executive to be more responsive and accountable and also puts in place credible mechanism to redress grievances. This approach is revolutionary and we are proud that it is something the Congress president has facilitated. First was the Right to Information Act in 2005, ushering in a new era of unprecedented transparency in public life.
Then came the Right to Work under Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), which became a reality in 2006, providing employment to one in four rural households in the past seven years and has led to increased-rural wages. The path-breaking Forest Rights Act came into the Statute Book in 2006, benefiting lakhs of tribal and other families, who have traditionally relied on forest for their livelihood. The Right to Education came into being in 2008. The Food Security Bill is thus the most logical next step. Most importantly, these series of measures go a long way in realising the vision of the welfare state that is enshrined in the Directive Principles of State Policy in the Constitution.
How about the infrastructure required for the smooth implementation of the food security programme?
We need to build godowns. We had capacity for storing 55 million tonnes, which has now gone up to 75 million tonnes and it will increase to 85 million tonnes by 2014-15. Although the present requirement of food grains is only 62 million tonnes, we need to further augment storage capacity. That is why I am emphasising that both the central and state governments need to work hand-in-hand to implement this noble scheme that holds out the promise of a hunger-free India.
What are the major challenges you foresee for implementing this ambitious programme?
Major challenges in the implementation of the food security programme is better distribution mechanism, more storage mechanism and modernising current stores. Another challenge is sustainable agriculture production. We have to invest more in agriculture -- technology has to be changed, storage capacities have to be improved, cold storages have to come in. These are the challenges that the country will face in the coming years as we have to feed a population of 122 crore people.
Show Full Article
Print Article

Download The Hans India Android App or iOS App for the Latest update on your phone.
Subscribed Failed...
Subscribed Successfully...
Next Story
More Stories