‘Government must ensure universalisation of public distribution system’

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) has accused the government of trying to hoodwink people on food security.

Neither the Food Security Bill nor the cash transfer scheme could provide the much-needed relief to people. On the contrary, over a period of time, due to rising prices, such cash transfers would increasingly become too inadequate to meet the nutritional requirements of the family, it said.

“This United Progressive Allaince-2 government is, thus, out to ensure that the vast mass of our people are pushed into still greater misery,” the editorial in the latest edition of party organ People’s Democracy said. It pointed out that what was required was not a special session of the Parliament but a special resolve by the government to provide genuine food security to people. It suggested that adequate allocations be made to ensure universalisation of the public distribution system through which people were provided the wherewithal to first survive and then to improve their livelihood status.

“The dismantling of the public distribution system will have another serious consequence as well. At the moment, foodgrains are procured by the government at a stipulated minimum support price from farmers. This stock of grains is then distributed through ration shops to people at specified prices. With the dismantling of the PDS, the government would not any longer need to procure foodgrains. Thus, it would also escape from its responsibility of providing a fair price to the farmer,’’ it said.

Attempt to eliminate subsidies

The direct cash transfer scheme, on the one hand, allowed the government to abdicate its responsibility of providing grains to people and thus protect them from being victims of hunger and malnutrition. On the other hand, the government could also abdicate its responsibility of providing the farmer a minimum support price. Through such a mechanism, the government would continuously be reducing, if not eliminating, its already meagre subsidies to keep people away from hunger and misery. At the same time, it could also be relieved of its subsidies to provide a minimum support price to farmers, it said.

On speculation over the convening of a special session of Parliament to facilitate the passage of the Food Security Bill, it said that when the government assumed office, then President of India, in her first address to the joint session of Parliament, outlined various measures that the government would implement in the first 100 days. Among other things, this list prominently featured the Food Security Bill. “More than four years have passed since then. The government has not managed to bring such a bill for the consideration and adoption of Parliament. The government has nobody to blame but itself for not fulfilling its own promise to the country and people.”

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