ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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From 50 Years Ago: A Bitter Lesson.

Editorial from Volume X, No 34, August 23, 1958.

The food situation was set out in a White Paper on the subject. It has since been debated in P arliament. The debate was remarkable and may well be memorable for the public confes-sion it brought forth from Pandit Nehru. The resolution which was passed called upon the Government to take “more suitable and active steps” to make the country self-sufficient in food, but did not say what these steps could be. The debate, however, brought out two things, viz, first that food is a responsibility of the en-tire Cabinet, including the Prime Minister, and, second, that food was primarily a responsibility of the States, and not of the Centre. The first is a matter of some importance since finance, or even foreign exchange, judging from an ex-Finance Minister’s confessions, was not even a constructive responsibility of the Minister con-cerned because during his regime, on his own admission, some Rs 100 crores of foreign ex-change were frittered away. He did not say, however, whether he was overruled by the C abinet in this matter and whether, therefore, the responsibility for foreign exchange was also that of the Cabinet.

There is more than a family resemblance, however, between food and foreign exchange and that is not because food shortage drains away foreign exchange. Both lack vital links in the formulation of policy and in the a pparatus of execution. Compared to the magnitude of the task involved in framing and executing a national policy for the pro-duction of foodgrains and their proper distri-bution, the management of foreign exchange is child’s play, though not less badly adminis-tered. It was courageous of Pandit Nehru to accept responsibility for the failure of his Government’s food policy.

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