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

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Volte-face on Food Security

A "high-level" committee makes half-baked recommendations which will rollback the PDS.

A ccording to media reports, former Union Minister for Food Shanta Kumar recently disowned the National Food Security Act (NFSA) on behalf of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). He explained, without blinking, that the BJP had just pretended to support the Act when it was being discussed in Parliament, for fear of the possible electoral consequences of opposing it. This startling admission of doublespeak did not prevent him from castigating the Congress Party for attempting to use the Act to win votes.

Shanta Kumar happens to be the chairperson of the High Level Committee on Reorienting the Role and Restructuring of the Food Corporation of India (FCI) (hereafter “HLC”), which submitted its report earlier this month. The HLC report, aside from calling for sweeping changes in the mode of operation of the FCI, makes strong recommendations aimed at downsizing the NFSA. These include reducing the coverage of the public distribution system (PDS) from 67% to 40% of the population, raising issue prices to half of the relevant minimum support price (instead of Rs 3/kg for rice and Rs 2/kg for wheat), and a gradual transition to cash transfers.

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