The proposed National Food Security Act, aimed at reducing the number of Indians going to sleep on their empty stomachs, will actually increase the number of hungry people in the country, according to Subhashini Ali, president of the All-India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA), the women’s wing of the CPI(M).
This was why the Left parties, even as they welcomed the initiative for a food security law, opposed the draft Bill in its current form, Ms. Ali said in her opening remarks at a ‘Food security convention’ organised by the AIDWA here on Thursday. In order to force the Central government to drop the objectionable provisos in the Bill, the Left organisations would hold a national convention in New Delhi later this month, she said.
Ms. Ali said the Bill provided for supplying the poorest families, regardless of their sizes, 25 kg of wheat or rice at Rs.3 a kg every month. Already, the Antyodaya scheme supplied 35 kg of rice or wheat to nearly two-crore poor families at Rs.2 or Rs.2.50 a kg every month. So, the Bill, if passed, would mean that the Antyodaya scheme would go and in its place the BPL families would be covered by the 25-kg food grains regime. Thus these families’ current larger quota of food grains at lower prices would go and as a result they would sink deeper in hunger, Ms. Ali said. The Act would, in fact, help cut the food subsidy bill by Rs.4,000 crore a year—which meant that the burden of the cut subsidy would be passed on to the poorest families.
She said the Act would monkey with the current public distribution system (PDS) which was already maimed by the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government. She said it was the PDS that held down the food grain prices in the open market. “If there is no proper rationing system, the prices will shoot up in the open market,” she said.
Kerala, which she said had a ‘dream-like’ PDS with more than a dozen items on offer at the ration shops was mauled by the Targeted PDS introduced by the NDA government. Its rice and wheat quotas under the APL category had been cut by more than 80 per cent. The Act, if passed, would further worsen the State’s position as the Central government recognised only one million BPL families in Kerala, whereas, according to the State government, there were 2.5 millions of them.
AIDWA leaders M.C. Josephine, T.N. Seema and K.K. Shylaja also spoke.