Opinion » Lead

Updated: August 30, 2013 00:08 IST

This perverse rage against the poor

Harish Khare
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The Hindu
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With the economic boom petering out, those who benefitted from it are angry with the government for the Food Security Bill because it is paying attention to the needs of the underprivileged for a change

This week’s received wisdom insists that the Indian economy has irretrievably collapsed because on Monday, the Lok Sabha passed the National Food Security Bill (NFSB). The Hindu Business Line headline (Aug.28, page 1) said it all: “Re, Sensex sink on fears Food Bill will feed deficit.” The subtext of the lament appears to be that the rupee decline was the market’s way of registering a pointed disapproval of the food security initiative. The Schadenfreude-wallahs are as happy as are the market-reformers that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) leadership has been fixed so gloriously for venturing into a “populist” course of action. The bandwagon routine has acquired a momentum of its own; even Hindi and other vernacular newspapers have allowed themselves to be mesmerised by the crisis-mongering on television. This, though, is no time to panic. This is the time to strike a balance between short-term difficulty and long-term promises and commitments.

What wrong signals?

Once every few decades comes a moment in a Republic’s life when a few fundamental commitments have to be renewed — or rejected. This is one such week, a time to test our core beliefs. It is also the time to ask a fundamental question: since when in this country has a veto been ceded to the markets and its manipulators, at home and abroad, to decide the issues of equity, social justice and economic fairness? There is something inherently perverse in the suggestion that this much-needed welfare measure would send out the “wrong” signals. Pray to whom? Those half-a-dozen professional financial manipulators in London?

Indeed, economists can always be relied upon to argue that there is always a better way to do anything. Some are competing among themselves to declare that this food security initiative will neither work, nor fetch any votes for the ruling party. Let us make no mistake. Beyond all these sophisticated arguments is a certain class prejudice, resentful that so many resources are being “wasted” for the poor and other socially disadvantaged people, that in this age of “reforms,” political considerations and calculations are being allowed to determine the allocation of societal resources.

This misses the very essence of the concept of political legitimacy in a democratic arrangement. A democracy survives and prospers only when every stakeholder gets an abiding sense of participation, partnership and entitlement. We often seem to keep forgetting that politics is all about who gets what at whose expense. During these last five years, at least for most of the time, the corporates and their policy preferences have been accorded unprecedented acceptance. The time is ripe to strike a new balance. And the NFSB does just that.

Reform by stealth

If we are honest with ourselves, we will have no difficulty in acknowledging that for 20 years, economic reforms have been operationalised without a political mandate. Not until recently when the Congress party held a public meeting to rally opinion behind the Manmohan Singh government’s FDI policy, did any political party have the courage to proclaim openly and boldly its commitment to “economic reforms.” Yet, the “reforms” have been routinely and regularly proclaimed to be “irreversible,” irrespective of the political colour of the government in New Delhi. The process has well been summed up in that evocative phrase, “reform by stealth.”

So now, when we are confronted with a veritable economic meltdown, we are ill-equipped to attend to the more serious and more debilitating crisis of our democratic project running out of its popular legitimacy. India’s democratic arrangements no longer appear to have the requisite social and political sanctions behind them. And we are unable to deal adequately with the systemic overload because our public discourse has been hijacked by a self-serving advocacy crowd and by a professionally disoriented media. For example, a year ago there was carping all around that the crony capitalists and the corrupt politicians were robbing the nation of its wealth, and we staged massive spectacles of resentment at Jantar Mantar; now, a year later, we are ranting and raving that we are not listening to or heeding those who rig the stock markets.

If shouting and screaming every evening could produce solutions to difficult and complex problems, India would have been the most efficacious and working corner of planet Earth. Despite the obvious disapproval of the shouting class, the UPA leadership has gone ahead with the Food Security Bill. Hence, the exaggerated anger.

As social philosopher Roberto Mangabeira Unger points out, a peaceful social order is in itself not enough; “ [S]ociety must be set up in a manner capable of justification in the yes of each of its members.” In political economy terms, each section of society, and every stakeholder gets to determine: what is in it for me? The Democratic Project is a social compact, an indefinable construct, but nonetheless one that hinges on a promise of a fair deal for all. The poor are asking this question with greater urgency — and in the Maoist-strongholds with arms and blood — as decades of “economic growth” have produced new inequities and disparities.

Rather than wait for the next round of the “Maoist” violence to jerk us back to harsh realities, what the Food law does is that at one stroke, it sends out a message that the Indian state has not turned its back on the poor, and that the have-nots continue to have a claim on the collective resources, and that they have not been left to their own devices or to the market’s curative potency.

This message has to be understood and appreciated in the context of the growing preference in some quarters for authoritarian solutions — throw out the encumbering paraphernalia of social equity or fairness, and let the floodgates of enterprise and business acumen be thrown wide open.

Resenting interventionism

A decade of economic prosperity has allowed millions and millions of middle-class families to realise their upwardly revised aspirations and life experiences; at the same time, the UPA saw to it that the welfare state kept expanding the “social agenda,” providing a safety net against the vagaries of the market.

Now, the good days have seemingly come to an end, and there is anger that the state remains equally mindful of the welfare poor. We all thought that the poor have been disappeared from the policy drawing room; and suddenly, they are back with almost a veto. The narrative-controllers resent that. Just when they thought they had successfully defanged the Indian state of its interventionist impulses, here comes the Food Security Bill.

The bill can be seen as the other side of the “stimulus” coin. The 2008-2009 stimulus was used by the super-rich to buy real estate in London and other European cities. At that time, no one seemed to find anything inherently wrong at this massive, disproportionate allocation of resources for so few. None of it was invested here to create jobs; instead, the super-rich petulantly proclaimed that the government was not sufficiently attentive to their “sentiment” and hence they would take their ball (Indian savings and taxpayers) and play in other economies. No one complained; instead, the government was blamed for the corporate sector’s misplaced priorities.

If subsidised food can reduce the food spending of the poor, and place some surplus money in their hands, which would then be spent in India, that may end up stimulating domestic consumer demand. It would be a kind of stimulus lite, for the poor.

A ruling party in India is called upon to fulfil its basic obligation to keep intact the democratic credentials of the “system.” The food security legislation is a partial response to that obligation and must be applauded.

(Harish Khare is a senior journalist, political analyst and former media adviser to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. He is currently a Jawaharlal Nehru Fellow.)

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The author has scripted a very good article to provide enough
justification for NFSB as if it has been approved by poor directly.
How come you relate the palaces bought in foreign lands by rich Indian
with this bill. It looks like you have only read the headlines of the
news on this issue.

You must be aware that the people who are voicing against this NFSB
are same who made it hell for the ruling party over a non-sense and
illogical poverty line and later their MPs makings statement which
lowered the price of a meal to Rs. 1. So I can't be sure how come you
got this GREAT conclusion.

This bill has been made just to satisfy political hunger of the party
and the manner in which the bill was passed says it all. First they
make a bill for poor former living in a village, which is yet to see
electricity, while sitting in a AC office in country's capital. After
that they will say if you oppose the bill, you are anti-poor. What a
great logic!!

from:  Rahul
Posted on: Sep 1, 2013 at 18:36 IST

It seems that the cacophony surrounding the bill has deprived the
author of his objectivity. The perverse rage is not towards the slew
of the so-called pro-poor legislation; but towards the senseless use
of laws to do something that the bureaucracy should have addressed.

The over-emphasis on poverty is badly used by both sides of the house.
But what many fail to appreciate is that even the countries with very
high HDI have poverty. The difference between such countries and
ourselves is in the quality of life of the poor, and the opportunities
for them to climb away from poverty.

If poverty was in fact a major thrust area for the political class,
they could have easily bolstered the storage and distribution network
of food. If we could recover the food that is wasted due to lack of
resources, then no child in india will go hungry. And it only requires
strong administrative reforms in PDS and a bit of expenditure to
modernize and expand warehouses.

from:  Murali
Posted on: Aug 31, 2013 at 13:29 IST

We are a nation of ignorant self-serving blabbermouths and we are
not ashamed of the fact that we have one of the highest growth
rates and some of the richest people in the world but we refuse
to take care of the week and underprivileged. Shame on all those
who have been to schools and universities and call themselves
educated. Revise the tax structure, make the richest pay more.
Hasn't anybody ever heard of a welfare state? We need a bit of
that keep things sane in a country like ours. And for those who
come up with such simplistic solutions like give them jobs
instead of money, it isn't the money handouts we are talking
about. Affordable food supplies is an essential right, as are
health care and housing. I blame the education system and the
general moral rot in the society for everything that's wrong with
it, for heaven knows there is enough money right here in our
country, so much so that even developed nations have refused to
offer us handouts anymore. And why should they?

from:  amit
Posted on: Aug 31, 2013 at 13:22 IST

A very good article - a counterpoint to mainstream myopic view of the impact on the CAD & market/rupee reactions. While technicalities of the Bill, timing and operational efficiency could all be debated, no denying the fundamental impact it could have. That is not being discussed, at all. 'How many children would be liberated from Child Labor' if their families don't have to depend on them to earn their bread, 'How many of them can go to school' due to money saved and spent in education, and what could the cascading impact be, in a couple of decades on Inclusive Human Development Indices (literacy, employability, per capita income) Taking an apolitically view, I see this as 'one of the' key investments to be made for future of India. The power of our democracy moves you when beneficiaries of schemes shine as eminent citizen in many walks. Focusing on implementation & accountability will be moot than a yes/no.

from:  Santhanakrishnan
Posted on: Aug 31, 2013 at 12:31 IST

The rage is not against the purpose of the bill,it is against the way it is being implemented & the fear of losing all this money to corruption.

from:  Ayush Gupta
Posted on: Aug 31, 2013 at 11:14 IST

I have read Mr Khare's article and a few others elsewhere having a similar view.What this Bill and the journalists/economists who write in support if this Bill fail to answer a very basic question -What is the END POINT for this Bill?Since it will become a Law once acceded consent by the Rajya Sabha and the President,I understand that this Bill once it becomes a law will be here to stay.In other words,this Bill envisaging a huge huge expenditure on part of the Government will be a recurring massive expenditure.Does the Government realize the enormous stress and financial burden it is placing itself into.Where, simply where is the Government of the day going to find the funds to finance such massive public programs?My feeling is that if the Government was indeed serious about implementing its own policies in the past during the past 66 years,we would not have seen today requiring such a drastic action.An old saying says "Show the hungry how to fish rather than giving them fish to eat!"

from:  Ravi Palur
Posted on: Aug 31, 2013 at 10:56 IST

Food bill just before elections by a PM who knows the meaning of CAD. All the FDI
has been flowing out, but we have enough to buy grains at market price and sell
for 2 Rs. Kg.
Mr. Khare who is going to foot this price difference? Your answers probably will
come from the pages of Goebles biography.

from:  Anamendra Bharati
Posted on: Aug 31, 2013 at 09:18 IST

67 years after independence. Coal, 2G, 3G, commonwealth, Adarsh, puppet
PM, Nehru dynasty.

Those who are opposing the Food Bill should restrict their comments to
what are the flaws in the food bill. They should not try to argue their
case with the words and clauses enumerated above.

from:  raghavan
Posted on: Aug 31, 2013 at 08:53 IST

Good article! Thanks Harsh Khare for giving voice to the poor.

from:  Vijay
Posted on: Aug 31, 2013 at 05:52 IST

Wow.. Another voice supporting an absolutely atrocious bill. No
surprise the words are coming from a former advisor to the UPA
government. The heading of the article "This perverse rage against
the poor" itself is intended to divide people into rich and poor and
thereby create animosity. Hello sir. We have nothing against the
poor. It's against the UPA government.

Passing this bill, the UPA government has accepted that it has failed
to eradicate poverty and hunger in this country. On top of it, the
bill provides subsidized food grains to 67% of India's total
population and the author calls this population underprivileged. What
a joke !! What's the use of this welfare scheme in an inefficient
distribution system with everything going down the drain ?

A sincere advice : Please create jobs and empower people. They will
take care of themselves.

from:  Praveen Balineni
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 17:20 IST

This is a very deep discussion. Why do we still have the "poor" in our country, close to 70 years after freedom from the British? Is it because we have failed to build the self-sustaining local economies? Is it because of disruptive technologies (auto replacing riksha, for example)? Is it because, unlike Europe, our "Development" did not lead to lowered fertility? Is it because the world has still not figured out how to deal with Externalities? (What has industrialization and urbanization done, for example, to Yamuna and Ganga?) Is our "poverty" a manifestation of the way things, nay the planet's sustenance itslef is coming under cloud? (Say, because of pollution - Externality)? Europe does not have this problem, they are a dying civilization. USA is slowly moving in that direction with increasing restrictions on immigration. Will these dying civilizations infect us with their ills and finally die? How should we build enough immunity?

from:  Rama Raju
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 17:02 IST

This article is brilliant and all those who don't understand what is being said in it are
clearly blinded by their own selfish motives and not the collective intention of a nation
that needs to do all it can for all its people. Especially when there is so much disparity.
You may argue that you should give jobs to the poor, so that they can learn to sustain
themselves. It's simpler said than done, most of the jobs they would be equipped to do
is that of manual labour as most are uneducated which doesn't empower them in the
ways you wish. And with the lack of good teachers and also a lack of motivation
amongst the so called "educated" middle class who are only interested in buying their
next television, to actually physically help these people, education will be a distant
dream. SO, the least anyone can do for the poor is to help them not worry about food
as much and focus on other aspects of life that could probably empower them. India is
clearly a hypocritical society. *Sigh*

from:  Noel
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 16:54 IST

For the last 67 years. the exchequer of this Nation has been looted in
the name of 'HELPING THE POOR'. Only this is undisputable fact that
the poor have remained wherever they were, and the 'HELPERS' have
become FILTHY rich!
See, if a pitcher of water has 85% leakage (remember your Grand Daddy
.... Rajiv Gandhy) do you first fix the 'leakage' OR pour whatever
water is left in the same pitcher, and more, borrow (who cares about
the Generation Next?) to purchase water and throw it in the same

from:  Sandeep
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 16:15 IST

Its sad that most of our policy makers and economists who work in the
government are highly socialist in their thinking. In a country which
is already so left from center , this is the last thing we need. If
you want people to have food generate employment for them. Instead the
UPA decides to take money from those who have work (as tax) then use
that to give fake employment via NREGA(employment without any economic
activity- what amazing economics is that).
It doesn't stop there and goes ahead and uses debt to burden the
country further by passing a food bill for the hungry. If people are
still hungry after Nrega at least stop boasting about that.
People need work and for real work you need good governance. It
shouldn't take 5 yrs of inactivity to pass infra projects.
This country need to move closer to the center, not left.

from:  Abhishek
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 15:59 IST

Well written article!

from:  Pradeep
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 15:41 IST

The 2008-9 Stmulus has taken away wealth from India for investments abroad. I have seen
both sides in my travels in india and abroad. The stimulus to the economies abroad and the
prosperity there is evident as much as the deprivation of rural India. An example is Barcelona
where I am now where Indian investments contribute to its prosperity. The contrast to the
degradation in India is shocking. A reminder for our dream for Swaraj and self-reliance is
overdue. Killing that through the policies and rampant corruption is what has happened.
Guaranteeing job and food for everyone by the government is only a game to fool people, as
it is not possible and is counterproductive .

from:  Dr.N.N.Panicker
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 15:36 IST

Indira Gandhi's "Garibi Hatao" won her a landslide victory without
doing anything to the poor. If Mr Kahre thinks that this is an issue of
rich Vs poor he is soooo wrong. what stopped UPA from effecting reforms
like Administrative Reforms Police reforms & end corruption during the
past 9 years? if UPA had set up proper systems & plugged the gaps, a
Food Security Bill even the last year would have been appreciated. But
without doing anything during the last 10 years, and AFTER bringing the
economy to its knees coming out with this bill is stupidity.

from:  Raman SK
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 15:30 IST

Some one famously said "Give a man some fish and he'll feed his family for a day. Teach a man to fish and he'll feed his family all his life".
This Congress (and its lackeys in UPA) have modified it to "Give a man a fish and we can pocket the second one while no-one's looking. Teach a man to fish and we'll lose this cushy number. We've got away with it for nearly 70 years, what's to stop us?".
In regard to Mr. Khare's puerile argument, investment in infrastructure is what's needed not transferred consumer spending. Don't insult 1 Billion by suggesting USD 28 Billion of a USD Trillion economy is credible. Law & Order, Defense, Education, Healthcare, Transport, Agriculture/Food chain, Power supply, Water Supply: Which one has Congress supplied since 1947?

from:  josh
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 15:24 IST

History has shown that communism has failed miserably - not because the welfare ideals were deficient but because the men in power at such `pro-poor' platforms only abuse it for personal gain. any government that is proven to be shamelessly corrupt through huge scams has lost all credibility to talk of lofty ideals. If the government had any capability, they could have reformed or at least tried to improve the PDS system which is also brazenly corrupt, wasteful and has crores of grains rotting. Bringing a new profligate scheme just before elections while doing nothing about the current system does smack of an attempt to loot the country in the name of welfare and poor people

from:  ketan
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 15:18 IST

I am an ardent fan of Mr. Harish Khare. He is pro-congress at least to
the extent that he is never anti-congress. So am I and this may be the
reason for my liking of Mr. Khare. This article seems to give an all
out justification for the food bill and total support to UPA. I do not
know whether this can be fully justified. However, when the government
did many things for the corporate, the complaint was that the poor are
neglected. Now, when the government turned towards the poor, it is
being crticised as political gimmick, nonviable etc. Such an approach
also cannot be correct.

from:  D. Darwin Albert Raj
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 15:14 IST

I belong to the group of people who have "benefited" from the so-
called boom. If there ever was any benefit I saw, it lasted only
for a year or two, soon the high inflation took it all away, but
that is beside the point.
I am for all the welfare a state can provide, I sincerely
believe that safety nets have to be in place. But with corruption
being what it is, all I will see because of the state largess is
the sons of politicians and bureaucrats driving fancy imported
cars on our roads, with arrogance only the kings of yore were
said to have, paid my the income tax deducted at the source from
the middle class (who neither get the tax cuts of the rich, nor
the freebies of the poor).

from:  Naren
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 14:42 IST

Everyone is ranting because of the innate hatred towards the government which has gone to such ludicrous levels that not a single welfare scheme can be passed without scrutiny. And while that is perfectly good and within the rights of the masses, their angst should based on a research or facts rather than this immortal bias against the government.

Ask yourselves, how many times has a traffic cop let you go for running a redlight(or violating any traffic rule) with a 100 Rupee handshake. And you talk about corruption. Tch.

from:  Parth Patel
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 14:42 IST

Mr. Khare is absolutely correct. Reactions against this bill are more a
result of Indian (upper class) prejudices against the poor. It is only
in our country that the poor are also stigmatized. It is the undeserving
chattering class which has cornered all fruits of the common economic
effort of the country and have grown brazen enough to state that the
real place of Indian masses is in poverty, not with them. It is about
time that they are taught a lesson by the god of market forces which
they worship.

from:  M Z Ansari
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 14:36 IST

The writer has made a point while giving a clear cut definition of
democracy. But mere passing of bill won't suffice. The food security act
should be implemented strictly at grass root level otherwise this
ambitious program will turn out to be huge wastage of the public money.
All the best to us in our fight against under nutrition and poverty.

from:  Nitish Sharma
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 14:30 IST

Try once to think NFS as for people rather than congress vote bank. Be it bjp or cogress or left or .... they all would have have done the same because in some rational view point it is a valid course of action.

from:  Abhishek Singh
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 14:20 IST

The Food Security Bill, despite its noble intent, is an enticement.
Corruption for the powerless from the corrupt with power. How sad that
corruption is so all encompassing ...

from:  Sesame
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 14:20 IST

Decades of Nehru-dynasty rule could produce only more and more "poor"
people. In classic feudal tradition offer a few well publicised hand
outs. Then for all the ills curse the middle class and carry out
emotional blackmail against those who try to reason out, labelling them

from:  kvjayan
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 13:53 IST

it seems the writer doesn't understand the fact that rage is not against poor. Its against corrupt and devilish ways of UPA govt.
The rage is by the honest persons in this society who are not able to do anything.
3 simple facts -
1. in 2009 congress lets go all the loans taken by farmers. An honest farmer might have paid his loan. He din't get any benefit, but all other thieves who got loan din't pay and in return brought Congress in power again. Every year, u recapitalise cooperative banks whose net worth gets eroded as loans given by them is not returned.
2. An honest person bought land/house in legal colonies at high price with his/her savings. but, all illegal colonies got authorised and all thieves who usurped the land now had become the owner of land/house without paying any money. Of course they will vote for congress.
3. When SC says that no criminal should allow to contest. u just bring a lesiglation and reverse that decision. All files related to scams will be lost.

from:  Vijay
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 13:47 IST

This is "perverse" support to corruption at all levels. it is indeed extremely foolish to imagine that this bill and other such manic efforts will benefit the poor. it will only benefit the corrupt leaders and "civil" servants at large! When will these pseudo-bleeding hearts realise that all such measures will only work when the system is clean and free of corruption and not when it rotten through and through.

from:  Giri
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 13:45 IST

Nice article worth reading- True - even the UPA did not care for the
people in the first four years- only when elections come, they think
about people- once elected, they can conveneiently forget for next
four years and again do some gimmicks in the last year- Even if late,
this is good piece of legislation which can keep food prices in check.

People can have some relief from price rise for short time- let them
be vigilant in future and elect those who care for them all the time
and not only during the elections

from:  vasudevan
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 13:42 IST

Nobody is against the subsidy offered by the bill.

Truely speaking, so many scandals have taken place in this regime starting from 2G,4G, Coal, Common wealth etc. This list goes long. How many politicians, millions of dollars lost in this. The issue will forgotten completely. Let the govt answer all these questions before they deserve any basic rights to bring this kind of good bills.

What happens, one section of the population just remembers this bill and revote this govt back to power. What happens to the millions of dollars scam. Supreme court is poweless and toothless to run any case against this govt as there is no cooperation from the executionaries.

Please think everything on the wholistic basis.Do not just discuss the bill alone. Think as a entirety and decide.

from:  Vinoo
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 13:32 IST

Its is a hugely flawed bill as-1>There is no proper storage facility and grains rot in open=>the shortage in market is going to be more acute due to this scheme=>price rise 2>no provision for proper PDS on a national scale 3>Poverty line still elusive dream with scramble for posting lowest number of poor, by state, as the elections are approaching=>not all those who are actually poor will get the benefit 4>MSP for farmers and supply chain disorder is a twin edge sword which kills farmer ad consumers alike,benefiting the bourgeois and middlemen only.

from:  aadeshis
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 13:25 IST

Food Security is very much required because wages of poor has not kept pace with inflation in basic commodities. As a percentage of income and in absolute terms poor are spending more on food than other classes in Indian society. Poor also deserve dignity, they can't be kept at mercy of exploiting employers those take advantage of their hunger and pay them pittance. If they are food secure, they will be in better bargaining position. Some people are saying, why it is now? It was in their election manifesto of 2009.Bill was introduced before and referd to standing committee.A lot of objections rectified by accommodating various suggestions and now final version was placed in front of parliament for its consideration.It is very sad to know that even people call themselves educated and of reason are so far from political discourse that is underway in our country at given time.

from:  Dinesh Pilania
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 13:17 IST

Harish intends to garner public support in favour of a legislation
that empowers the corrupt PDS system. The successive congress
governments have just doled out (or pretended to do so) money to
people without making sure that it reaches them. The same PDS which
has failed millions and siphoned off food and kerosene to open market
will not take exception to the extra 5 kg of grain meant for the poor.
That too will end up in the open market. Just because you were
associated with the UPA/PMO/MMS in the past does not mean you have a
moral obligation to support whatever filth they come up with.

from:  Vijay
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 13:16 IST

There are better ways to empower the poor. Show the horse the pond to drink. You dont need to feed it in a feeding bottle. If the Govt. was so keen to allieviate the pains of poor why the BPL line flawed? Why is the Govt not taking any steps to procure the farm produce at competitive rates, eliminate middle men. Why is the Govt not taking steps to aasure farmers their right over the land (i.e. steps not to convert farm land to commercial plot). Do all this and the farmer can feed himself. And you need not treat him like a beggar. Similar solution should be sought for other poor sections. And Sir, please provide some response to our questions.

from:  Srivatsan S
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 13:13 IST

Why is the UPA government so keen to pass the NFSB only now after being in power for nine years?The answer is simple-to appease the poor and garner their votes in the next Lok Sabha elections.Where was the government when the food grains were rotting in the godowns?
With the deficits at record high and rupee at record low,this is not the time to pass the NFSB.Let the next government decide on it if the rupee stabilizes and deficit is manageable

from:  harsha
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 13:12 IST

Please help the poor with jobs. It is a failure of all governments for
this apathy. They have reduced the hard working people of India to a
class that can be used for political gains. It is as though the Govt.
of the day has suddenly woken up to the travails of the poor.

Follow our time immemorial gram swaraj model for sustainable income
and sustainable local economies that thrive on local produce, labor
and neighborly trade. The land will remain with the farmers, the
people will have good neighborly relations, and all will live in
harmony with nature. Even Gandhiji and J.C. Kumarappa advocated this
model, which made India a super power and the most favored trade
destination, until the advent of the "Barbarian West" colonialists (as
BBC put it in their 7 part serial).

from:  p.s.swami
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 12:54 IST

Why are fully abled poor men and women not able to buy food at market prices. Why are they not able to earn enough money to pay such prices. Why after 60 years of so called pro poor policies the majority of populations is dependent of such measures.

When i look for answers to these questions then i come to the only conclusion that they want the people to remain poor and dependent on such slavish measures. keep them poor...ask votes by playing with their elections and loot the country. There is no other explation, let me know if there is any.

Praveen Nair

from:  Praveen Nair
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 12:48 IST

The problem is - what is the meaning of poverty? The government's intentions may be right and in a democracy, no party will do anything out of altruism. But this government doesn't have clarity about poverty. The planning commission has repeatedly been criticized for its outright ridiculous ideas of urban and rural poverty. How can one expect the government to successfully or even moderately successfully implement the program when basics like definition of poverty are ambiguous?

from:  Omkar Patku
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 12:48 IST

There is much merit in this food security bill if the intent is one based on altruism and genuine interest in the welfare of the poor, & a practical need to use up food grains before it rots in our godowns. No govt. agency has really cared to stem such rotting of precious food that is acquired at much cost through the foodgrains procurement support price mechanism. So it is good that this portion of foodgrains goes to our poor rather than feed the rodents in FCI godowns! The only cost perhaps is the cost of distributing this food efficiently and making sure it reaches all those who deserve it.
The reason for the cynicism is the political chicanry of the UPA in timing it now. So there is a point there. As to its impact on our CAD I am yet see a clear number but have variously seen amounts like Rs. 20 to 25000 crores associated with it. If this bill is being criticized by some as a reason for the Rupee's steep decline then such a reason is ill based.

from:  Ramgopal Dass
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 12:42 IST

The NFSB is not worth applauding as suggested by the author
but is something that will be deeply regretted once it will start
draining the already free-falling economy! This is cunning and cheap
politics being played by the UPA just before the election time.

from:  Kamal Madishetty
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 12:38 IST

Dear Sir,

You truly have no idea about the economic realities since you've
written this article purely to promote the decision.

The so called fuel subsidy, has to my understanding only lead to
inefficiency in our Oil & Gas industry, since importing is cheaper
than trying to do it inside, and govt will pay anyways !!

The food subsidy, will only make the poor dependent on the subsidy,
not give them any independence !! The rest of the country is not doing
so great either that they can take the burden of almost 70% of the
population !!

The govt has again tried and easy fix, which looks popular to the poor
and is now trying to make it look as if the "rich" are against it. The
tax paying middle class are barely surviving ourselves !! Life is not
supposed to be just about managing to meet our expenses on a day to
day basis, if there is ONE disaster, we've to take loans to live on!!

So PLEASE dont say that we're against the poor.. what we are is
against POOR DECISIONS !!!

from:  Veena
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 12:33 IST

Even if it is a political decision or has political motivations the fact
that hopefully the deprived will not go to sleep on an empty stomach or
children will not starve to death is a great move. Of course all of us
will have to pay a price.

from:  arjun
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 12:30 IST

if the government was truly concerned about the poor,they would have
taken concrete steps to improve the shoddy state of government schools
and hospitals so that the poor could get good education and health
facilities which is the way to help them come out of poverty.But the
politicians do not want that- they just want the poor to remain poor
and be dependent on them even for their basic needs so that they can
exploit them and use them for vote bank politics.I recently went to a
village in Tamilnadu and saw that the villagers had kept the rice they
get at the PDS,to give to the hens as they were not fit for human
consumption.Thus this current bill is just another way for the rich
politicians,traders and shopkeepers to get richer at the cost of the
tax payer.

from:  sujatha raja
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 12:10 IST

The author being the proponent of NFSB is amazing.There are many
central government funded scheme for providing food running in the
country,but the poor is still hungry.This is because of the leakage in
delivery process.The government primarily must take measures to
resolve the leakage menace and if leakage is sealed,existing schemes
for providing food to poor citizens of India are more than
sufficient.Regarding corparates investing their funds abroad is due to
lack of policy intiatives by government.Only implementing NFSB without
overhauling the delivery system will not help the cause.

from:  Shikhar Raj
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 12:02 IST

"the UPA saw to it that the welfare state kept expanding the “social agenda,” providing a safety net against the vagaries of the market"...this is just not true. The author should not try to make UPA out to be something it is not. This bill has not been passed with the right motives but if it works, I'm sure the people who benefit won't complain about the intentions behind it. I do agree with the author that the affluent Indians have opposed the bill for reasons other than the flaws in its construct. This complete lack of empathy and concern for the bulk of our population which is poor is, in my opinion, holding us back from developing as a nation. I think a nation develops as a whole, or not at all.

from:  Shruti
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 11:51 IST

Another excellent piece by Mr. Harish Khare, but will it suffice to silence the shrill cries of the greedy Indian upper middle class.
The Food Bill may have a populist tinge, but the idea of providing food for the needy should be appreciated by one and all instead of worrying about the depreciating rupee. The TV anchors and the shrill middle class do not think it fit to talk about the subsidies given(tax foregone) to corporates which is in the region of Rs.5.37 trillion, more than the budget deficit.
The upper middle class are more worried that the cost of LED televisions and high end smartphones will rise due to the rupee fall. "Growth" for them means letting the corporates and FII's have a free run which would result in more wealth and westernised living for them. The outflow of FII funds from India can be moderated with a tax on the lines of the Tobin tax which no one seems to consider.
The Food Bill and Land Acquisition Bill are steps in the right direction a la Hugo Chavez.

from:  C Balachander
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 11:49 IST

Mr Khare's insinuation that detractors of the food security bill, sorry
ordinance, are somehow being pawns for some financial manipulators
sitting in London is extremely shameful and a cheap shot at achieving
some semblance of dignity for the failed congress government.Even if we
do not question the "intentions" of the UPA government, I have no clue
how the UPA plans to implement the FSB after a term where we have
witnessed the Coal Gate, the insolent and utterly shameless defence of
Mr. Vadra and not to mention the ballooning CAD. This is
clearly a move to appease the fickle minded masses before the next
general election. Well you cannot blame the congress for the politics
though, even Mr Indira Gandhi could bounce back in '79 even after
imposing the emergency why can't the present day UPA. Our country
already has a leaky PDS system, why not improve that first ?

from:  Raunak Bajaj
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 11:46 IST

The UPA government is sunk neck deep in a sea of corruption scandals.
Does Harish Khare believe that the same government will be able to use
monetary resources of the country in very huge amounts to feed the poor
without large leakages of such resources? In any case, will the
government be able to bear such a financial burden without sinking
itself in a sea of debt? Even though promises may garner votes, will the
government be able to honour those promises?

from:  K.Vijayakumar
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 11:35 IST

It doesn't take a economist to figure out the implications of the food security bill on the economy. TRUE. But India and Indian democracy has a past tendency of not sticking to the principles of democracy and political administration. The completion of 6 6 years of it is in itself an indicative that the democracy is not governed by such laws. Moreover India being a socialist country as is in its Preamble is in itself a strong reason to justify this move. A state which can not serve it's poors would no longer be able to serve it's affluent.

from:  Vikash Kumar
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 11:32 IST

The author has not taken into account 66 years of Poor Loving schemes
which have not helped the Poor one bit and in fact have worsened their
lot quite significantly by exposing them to huge ecological and public
health dangers. So now, all of us middle class are supposed to be "poor
hating". I wonder if we live on the same planet even? That the author
was part of the establishment starts making sense when we observe our
unfortunate nation's quest to become some sort of a welfare utopia, some
Congress managed "Ram Rajya".

from:  Jeeves
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 11:30 IST

A timely article which says what needs to be said. It boggles my mind as to how people talk about the timing of the bill. If this is vote bank politics then so be it. What is vote-bank politics for the privileged classes, is democracy and social justice in action for poor. Why is subsidizing the rich through tax-breaks, giving away our natural resources at dirt cheap prices to companies like Reliance not considered vote-bank politics? Such cruel language only speaks to the disgraceful class warfare waged by the affluent classes on the poor in this country.

from:  Arun Iyer
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 11:24 IST

My take on food security bill is similar to the majority of common men of my country. Excess of any thing is bad..this is nothing but the kind of spoon feeding to BPL category who undertake the majority of agriculture activities and simultaneously getting benefited from spurr of schemes like MNREGA, RSBY, IGAY, MID-DAY MEAL etc. Don't you think they are benefeting that population which is already privileged to get the benefit of all running schemes in India.all the running schemes are good enough if our system of execution is tranparent and responsible. These schemes are centre of attraction for our corrupt system.obvius beneficiaries have already accumulated the enormous wealth and pumped the black money in our system or in terms of black money in the suspicious foreign accounts.
We afford such kind of welfare schemes at the cost of shattered dream of comon men or mango people....If black money pumped in the market who suffers most.....obvious answer is common men....he can't afford

from:  Pradeep Pandey
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 11:21 IST

The lopsided analyses followed by the appeasing judgement show how loyal the writer is to his masters. No doubt, the writer is going to achieve more awards from the government in near future.

Remember the saying - “Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime". But I am sure that the "government" is not going to do so and you are not going to support/advise that.

from:  Dr. Kakati
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 11:06 IST

As soon as the bill was passed by cabinet & was sent to Parliament consideration, advertisements have started appearing in all leading newspapers, TV Channels & even radio stations about how the Govt is serious about the poor & how cheaper grains are birthrights of the poor, & how this bill will transform everything. The UPA Govt is so desparate to claim the credit of the bill that it does not even have the patience to wait & see how the implementation of the said bill will go through. No one opposing the bill is against the poor. But the poor are being shown the carrot (may I say another) to fetch enough votes in the next elections as the middle class has already lost faith in Mr MMS.

from:  Shreerang
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 11:03 IST

Pretty sad that everyone is seeing and is concerned about the
political angle to this, nobody seem to be concerned about the 'social
equity' aspect and it's sad that we are discussing food security in
the context of timing etc.
While Mr.Khare's narrative seems one sided, there is no questioning
the fact that corporate India has done precious little to do anything
for the poor other than generally pontificating about what is wrong
rather than taking the onus and doing something right, So right time
or wrong time I say it's high time we considered the beneficiaries as
'equal citizens' of our republic.

from:  Sujith
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 10:55 IST

I am not a fan of Mr. Khare's views generally, but does it matter that
the bill is introduced now instead of earlier? There is never a good
time to perform rightful action, it is always now.

from:  Krishnamoorthy Sankaranarayanan
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 10:54 IST

It does not really matter whether the food security bill is passed for political reasons or not. All that matters is that this is a welfare measure targeted at poorest of poor. India cannot ape western economic policies. There are way too many poor people who are in fact untouched, even harmed, by the consequences of these policies. They are not healthy, do not have the level of education or exposure required to benefit from the opportunities created by liberalization. This is obvious to all those who care to look around or look at data objectively. Welfare initiatives such as food subsidy is not only good for long term peace and stability, it is also a moral imperative for those who have benefited from economic growth and who take for granted the availability of food on their tables thrice a day. It also makes good economic sense, since the poor will have some money left over to spend on other goods, which will in-turn benefit the private sector.What's all the fuss about? Don't get it

from:  Ramesh
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 10:52 IST

Rather than discussing the politics of the timing of the Food Bill it should be supported and improved upon by states that dont already have much better social security net in place.

Rather than questioning the implementation of the Food Bill at a time when the Economy is not doing good - common sense will dictate that the time to implement any social security net is ESPECIALLY EFFECTIVE when the Economy is not in good shape so that those without the means to fish can still get to eat!

Opponents of the Food Bill must also question why there exists Social Security or ObamaCare in the US or National Insurance or NHS scheme in the UK and where the funds come from even when their economy is not doing half as well. Rationale does not hold. Social Security does not require timing. That must always be the priority of political economies that are not able to control inflation! Corruption at all levels and by all concerned is not a reason to delay implementation anymore.

from:  r n iyengar
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 10:51 IST

"With the economic boom petering out, those who benefitted from it are
angry with the government for the Food Security Bill because it is
paying attention to the needs of the underprivileged for a change".
These words sound like those of a politician than those of an analyst or

from:  Karthik
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 10:49 IST

Question to author whether MNREGS made any difference to the poor?Planning commission only lowered the figures to justify its claim on the no of poor with 28 rs earning per day.

Please for God sake,be a Bhartiya and think about the country.we have the potential to be the no1 and because of the kind of financial engineering and planning for a person or family sake millions are suffering and author shall not be the exceptional case.
Merely after 60 years we are not able to maintain our independence.
Please ask yourself before writing,i expect the author shall do the exercise.

from:  Avina
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 10:48 IST

It is quite ironic to have a doctorate Economist as the Prime Minister
and pass the bill during this dire economic crisis.
It is not the acting Prime Minister who needs to be blamed but the
ones making him act ,who's sole purpose is to win the elections no
matter what. Creation of a new state,Food security bill for the
poor;all this at a time when elections are near by!It doesn't take
ones wit to understand the motivation!

from:  Priyanka
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 10:46 IST

Good to see a pro-poor article when majority of the electronic media is
going overboard with self-proclaimed economists sitting on judgement on
a policy which is going to bring relief to nearly 800 million people!
Whether the government brought the legislation due to elections or
otherwise can hardly be an argument to cry foul. If a privileged few
can be doled out nearly 5 lac crores in the form of revenue-foregone in
the annual budget, then how come a policy benefiting millions is being
ridiculed, mocked, and rejected so easily? Thankfully policy makers are
unmindful of such hue and cry in media, and are pushing legislation
benefiting the majority of Indians.

from:  singh
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 10:40 IST

What a ridiculous argument!! The opposition to food bill is first labelled as opposition to poor, and then more!! Sad ...

from:  Anirudha Deshmukh
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 10:36 IST

Mr.Khare,I think you have either not understood the intention of UPA
govt. or voluntarily decided to praise it for passing the food bill.
In 67 years of democracy if we still have people in BPL (below poverty
line) that itself tells a lot of truth about the government ruling the
country. Neither the government nor the policy makers or journalists
or media have the courage nor the intention to look into the real
issue which is pushing poor to the BPL line. I am sure if those issues
have been correctly analysed and a system reform had happened the poor
of this country would have been in a much better state and no such
bill would have been required. With the rampant corruption in every
section of Govt. do you think this bill will ensure food distribution
to poor of this country by any chance? For once please check the
ground realities before writing an article like this.

from:  Sanchayita
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 10:36 IST

This article seems straight out of Chairman Mao's Little Red Book. The
author betrays zero understanding of economics (therefore, the article
has 100% rhetoric and 0% math) and lacks the ability to differentiate
between crony capitalists and capitalism/markets (Pls read Raghuram
Rajan's Saving Capitalism from the Capitalists). With such illustrious
gentleman advising the PM, its no surprise the economy is in such

Let me repeat the major problems with the FSB:
(1) How did we figure out that 67% people need food security (when
surveys show that 2% of Indians suffer from chronic hunger and 21% are
below the poverty line). Nehru urged Indians to have a scientific
temper but clearly his grand daughter in law's govt doesnt exercise it
while formulating policy
(2) FSB doesnt significantly help with malnutrition
(3) Incremental costs associated with the bill (35k crore to 1k crore,
depending on the source)

The likes of Nehru, Patel and Rajaji must be crying at what we have

from:  Anunay Shahi
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 10:27 IST

I am truly amazed at this vitriolic against the detractors of the Food Bill. The issue, I believe, is not about how this bill will be a burden on the nation's financial resources. The issue is about how this government gets sudden fits of compassion for the poor, especially when elections loom around the corner. Mr Khare's angst against the "subsidies" showered on the rich may be right, but the Food Bill by itself is not going to do anything in this corruption-ridden nation. The govt., which is highly compromised to the needs of the rich, famous and corrupt, has no resolve to take on the real issues but will indulge in these vote-bank politics.

from:  Manish
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 10:13 IST

You do not have to be an economist to know that a country where 67% of
the population has to be subsidized for food and fuel cannot survive.

from:  Hilary Pais
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 10:09 IST

During the time of fall of currency in India, is it good to introduce food bill in parliament?

from:  Sundhararajan
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 10:07 IST

Happy that the opposition, for their own petty reasons, rejected the cash transfer proposal. That would have killed PDS and made the poor stand outside the glass windows of Walmart with their worthless pennies received as 'cash transfer'.

from:  Tom
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 09:53 IST

This is a flawed article.If the UPA was so concerned about the poor, why did it wait for nine years to pass this bill? This bill is not being passed for welfare of the poor.There are political motivations behind the bill.The UPA wants the bill to be its trump card for the 2014 elections.India's growth has largely been driven by the burgeoning Indian middle class and entrepreneurship.Besides,this is not the right time to pass such a bill, when the economy is in bad shape

from:  Pranay
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 09:51 IST

A well written thought provoking article.

from:  viji
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 09:21 IST

Congress mouthpiece is at it again, peddling a bankrupt and corruption ridden deal that will
go the way of the public distribution system and in the process bring in further ruin to the
economy, but then Congress has a job in hand I.e., cobbling together the next govt, whether
the benefits actually flow to the poor or not who cares.

from:  Suvojit Dutta
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 09:17 IST

Dear Sir, if 'Food Security Bill' was all that important to ensure food for poor in the country, why did it take 67 years for your 'ruling party' to wake-up & enact it? We've enacted so many 'Rights'(RTE, RTI, MGNREGA), has it really successfully ensured in providing that underwritten right to common man?
First question is, do you really need such bill at all, as it only underlines failure of governance to provide basic amenities to citizens even after decades; secondly, even if you pass such law, what about its stringent implementation to make it meaningful. We've PDS on one side & huge grain stocks in FCI warehouses on other side. Cannot we plug holes in PDS, use of advance IT & utilize these grainstocks effectively to ensure it reaches poorest of poor and make PDS huge success. But then, it requires 'sincerity of intentions' and 'strong determination' which 'your' ruling party lacks completely...!!! So, your intellectual deliberation doesn't appear more than a 'faux act...!!!

Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 09:06 IST

This is a nice tactic to make people who oppose food bill, feel guilty
for doing so. What Harish is forgetting is that those who are opposing
the bill, are the ones paying for it through taxes. And it is entirely
justified if people oppose it. And what has UPA been doing for the past
60 years? Why the sudden need to pass the bill just before 2014

from:  Gaurav
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 09:06 IST

Though Mr Harish writes and explains to the point. Every column I read of him, is too biased and pro-UPA. He didnt explained about NFSBs positive side and its economic impact , he was too focused on giving hypothetical analysis that whatever NFSB provides is best because it is provided by UPA government.

It's time to grow up and write factually rather than supporting a specified class.

from:  Sobhagya
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 09:00 IST

Dear Harish,
I just have a question for you, i know its unrelated to this article, while you are at praising the UPA for food security bill, did you totally skip the remark from SC about missing coal scam files?
This is habit of "missing files" is a slight of hand congress has been playing since Indira's time, what is your thought on this missing file issue?
Is it also a perverse rage against poor, or communal as per you, like to know your thoughts!!

from:  Aniket
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 08:43 IST

Economic boom was benifiting all, from highest to lowest. All this underprivillaged & versus other is stupid attempt to "DIVIDE & RULE." Very Simple more economic reforms & better econoic management means more rooms for public wellfare schemes. Instead of improving very nice scheme "MID-DAY MEAL" scheme being run on unrealsitic per student expanse, Government prefer another populist scheme through highly corrupted distribution system.

from:  Deepak
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 08:33 IST

I do not know why Some section has tendency to defend the
indefensible. No one is against poor, Infact India has a tendency to
give 50% of profit to poor since ages.But there is hell wrong with
this Food security bill
1. Timing : When not it was brought when we were looking up,
Government was their, incentives were then
2. Ring of Election : Why are we bringing it so close to Election so
that Honeymoon Effect can be Harvested
3. Disarrayed Implementation Mechanism : We are relying on
overburdened and collapsed PDS, which apart from few states is in
Total shambles. Half of FPS exist on Paper and benefit goes to
undeserved. Add to it
4. Wastage of Existing Resource : 40,000 ton of recorded waste of food
down the drain. Why ? Should not we be working on Infrastructure there
5. Why splurging money when existing system like mid-day meal scheme,
PDS,MNREGA,Food for work and all are leaking and has not been able to
be implemented even close to 50% efficiency

from:  Sudhanshu Kumar Ashwini
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 08:16 IST

The writer's
premises, like the alleged received wisdom economy has collapsed
because of Food Bill, there is anger state minds the poor and we are
ranting and raving we don't listen to the stock market manipulators,
sound shrill and indefensible. He piles motherhoods upon these half-
truths like every stakeholder must have a sense of participation, not
ignoring the exaggerated "decades of growth", which, after less than
two decades, has screeched to a halt! He also tries to strike a sense
of fear pointing to Maoist violence, as though the Food Bill is the
peace pipe offer to the rampant Maoists, who are also expected to be
pleased with his statement that none of the surplus of 08-09 surplus
waa invested in India. There is also the carrot of stimulus to
consumer demand.
Populist journalism cannot paper over political populism. Harish
should know he can't hide a lamp under a bushel.

from:  G Balasubrahmanyan
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 08:06 IST

Harish Khare , political analyst and former media adviser to Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh. What else can we expect from you.

When deciding the issues of equity, social justice and economic
fairness, should you not also consider the middle class
families the ones who contribute to a large extent of the taxes
collected.The middle class is the one who pays for most of these
freebies.The corporations have invested and managed their business
well to profit from it they also pay a hefty sum as taxes. The
politicians who run scams and take bribes are the ones who have
accumulated a large sum of money.The money from these scams would have
paid for the Food bill can some one recover the money.

It is widely accepted that criminals and strongmen, with wealth to
fund election campaigns, have found a berth in virtually all
political parties.Can you guarantee this will not end up like 'UP rice
scam'(US$32 billion).

from:  Anjaneyulu
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 07:54 IST

The title itself is a misnomer, "This perverse rage against the poor". Well I'd like to ask Mr. Khare whether 67% of the population is this poor that it needs a food securty bill to have access to food? Are you saying that during the economic boom, only 33% of the population's fortunes got lifted? Then indeed the country's economy is at its worst ever. And if that be the case, is providing food at subsidiary rates to more than half the population through an unreliable PDS the best way to recover? Also from where does the government hope to recover the cost for such a massive expenditure which is said to amount to 3% of the GDP?

from:  Manoj Warrier
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 07:48 IST

Why I do have to read this imaginary drivel? The author himself has a class bias--in favour of some essential category called "the poor." Never mind that what he is supporting is just the corrupt government machinery that cares about nobody. Such middle-class authors have nothing but pity and contempt for "the poor": They simply cannot fathom that "the poor," too, deserve to work rather than be left at the mercy of the government,

from:  Kapil
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 07:39 IST

Political bias is visible through out.The statement that the
subsidized food would place some surplus in the hands of the poor and
thereby boost the consumer demand is a daytime dream of the writer.The
facts gained from experience is that unless there is a need to work
for food,lethargy will increase. Since labour is one of the factors of
production any action that will work as a disincentive to labor would
adversely affect the cycle of production and consumption.The right way
is to generate employment - both urban and Rural with fair wages.
The indirect reference to opposition parties as a 'shouting class'is a
gross under estimation.He shall remember the said shouting class had
shouted on scams pointed out by C&AG.

from:  S.Muthuswamy
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 07:32 IST

Great article! Lonely, sane voice amongst sensationalising doomsayers! Corporatisation of
Indian media houses has made them mouth pieces of the privileged and upwardly mobile.
Happy to see The Hindu continuing its tradition of balanced journalism.

from:  Srinivasan
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 07:26 IST

"Rage against the poor" and such emotive rhetoric will not make the following questions go away: 'On top of the FS scheme, will the GoI have enough monies for the Rural Employment scheme, loan cancellations, set off for bad loans by government banks, loss-making Air India and all the other PSUs, occupying the 'commanding heights of the economy' and God forbid, to fight a war should Pakistan and China decide to kick us where it hurts?"
If the answer is "Oh yes GoI will have", I only pray that the answer is likely to last a long time, because all the items listed above will last a long time.

from:  Murthy
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 07:24 IST

The congress had not taken any step in the last 10 years to enforce
court rulings on water sharing,and irrigation projects are only scams
along with CWG, 2G, Coal gate, pawan bansals, defence purchase scams
and others. With practically no effort by congress regime to improve
agriculture, storage and distribution, feeding leakage in airlines,
non-strengthening fiscal discipline, what it plans is only to give
cheap rations of poor quality rice procured at high prices and to get
it funded through exhorbitant increase in taxes, duties which will
pinch the private industry and therefore middle class mostly. This is
because of lack of pre-planning and discipline from the political
class. Hence the apathy from the middle class. Can Shri. Khare tell
that this much percentage of water will come each year from one state
to plan irrigation in delta state?. Where is the money to support this
FSB after the loot in 2G, Coal gate, Common wealth?. Who will come
towork if allis given free?

from:  hariharan
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 07:06 IST

Very well said. I agree that the FSB is a moral imperative. And it is unfortunate that the
manipulator and speculators have a disproportionate say in how the country is run.

The only concern is did the FSB overreach in covering 65% of the population? If one looks
at the income distribution in India about 450 million people belong to households that earn
less than Rs 75000 per annum. The next 250 million makes 75000 to 150000 per annum.
And it increases further. For a home with Rs 6000 per month, foodgrains alone at open
market prices for 25 kg comes to Rs 1250 which is 20%. It is clear that it is the bottom tail of
the population, may be 25%, that is in economic distress. At 65% coverage, One may find
that FSB may be giving subsidised foodgrains to those that have a scooter, TV and cell
phones in their homes. That is overreach. Part of the FSB outlay could have been used to
help poor in the next set of needs, sanitation and clean water.

from:  Anand
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 05:51 IST

Brilliant, Harish Khare. Watching TV anchors every night and watching upper Middle Class experts talk about Food Security and Land Acquisition is at the expense of growth, shows sheer hypocrisy. The Urban Class derives its strength from the rural poor and we cannot forget that over 70 percent are the latter. The UPA, in its dying days, has shown some guts by pushing these through. Add to this RTI plus an average rate of growth of 7 percent for the two UPA terms, this is unbeatable. What chidambaram should do is to push some major projects through, ease Gold buying and suddenly, the rupee will look respectable and growth back to 7 percent. The irony is that, China has followed a growth story at the expense of its rural poor and is paying the price. Modi can promise urgent approvals for Nano in Gujerat. But, the Country needs a wholistic approach and the UPA has struck this balance. Add a secular card and peace talks with bangladesh and Pakistan, UPA 3 will be back

from:  sridhar
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 05:47 IST

The second last para of this is the key
We should in fairness wait for a year to see if it is true
Equally Khare in all honesty revisit it on facts
An even chance he may be disappointed

from:  shatamarshanam
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 05:31 IST

The protest against the Food Security Bill is not only from those who beneftted from
economic liberalisation. No one has really objected to the subsidy to the poor. But the
whole country knows how the bureaucracy works. As early as in 1980s none other
than Rajiv Gandhi had stated how the funds meant for the poor are siphoned off. Now
by some estimates over 1lac crores are committed for the food security scheme with no
visible change in delivery process. Hence the concern of people should be taken
seriously and not brushed aside as ranting of the well to do.

from:  T N Subramanian
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 04:34 IST

There is no doubt that food security should be given higher priority
than the economic reforms, but how having another ambitious bill or
law is going to address the problem? The real issue lies in the
implementation and not legislation. Government should spend time and
money on proper implementation of the existing welfare schemes. I
might be too cynical here but I feel that this will end up becoming
one more welfare scheme which will finally benefit the few political
party workers and govt officials instead of the needy people. I
sincerely hope that this scheme will be a success.

from:  Jagadeesh Kinni
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 04:30 IST

Mr. Khare is looking for phantom enemies. Nobody grudges the poor getting a helping hand that will improve their lot. God knows our poor can use help. However, what we are all ashamed of (or ought to be) is what we, through Congress rule for over the last 60 plus years, have done for the poor. What the bill says is that over two- thirds of our people, after 67 years of independence, are still so poor that they are unable to make enough money to buy even basic cereals for daily consumption. More than anything else, the speeches made by the current government's leadership in support of the Food Bill, lay bare the horrible mismanagement that the country and especially our poor folks have endured over all those years. The Food Bill is not a time to celebrate as Mr. Khare suggests, instead it is time to recognize that we have gone horribly wrong and all of us should hang our collective heads in shame. Few, if any country, has done such a miserable job for such a long time.

from:  Virendra Gupta
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 04:23 IST

we are all for the eradication of poverty. We saw this before
in our Republic with government managed schemes. They never reach
or help poor. This bill (and your article) has politics written all
over it. I am convinced congress (Soniaji) cares only about winning
elections and staying in power. She doesn't give a squat about
poor. If she is why did this bill wait until 6 months before

from:  Jani
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 03:32 IST

It is surprising that a reputed journalist like Harish Khare has allowed emotion to get the better of rational analysis. There is no justification for his rant against those opposed to the food security bill. Many in the country from all walks of life are against the bill. It is insane to insult them all as being prejudiced and anti poor. Firstly, the bill is not just for the poor. The government itself has stated it will cover 67% of the entire population even though only 22% are below the poverty level. So it is a blatant attempt to buy votes by gifting enormous subsidies to those who do NOT need them. The common man as well as financial markets around the world are asking where the money is going to come from. Could Khare answer this question? It is the reason why the rupee has crashed. He also says in a democracy every stakeholder must get entitlement. But there is no word about responsibility. Sadly, with the weak rupee and higher overall prices, the poor will be hurt the most.

from:  Viswanath
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 02:59 IST

A sensible article.

While the electronic media and much of the print media is propagating the judgement that Food Security will further be a bane on India's economic numbers, very few mainstream media members like The Hindu are sobering up the debate.

But the trend of the most of the media is setting a dangerous precedent. Never before had the media been so much anti-social in the history of Independent India. The current media structure is also unique with its private ownership and profit motives.

May be subsidies are not appropriate solutions. But it doesn't mean that we should let millions of Indians sleep hungry. Food security, thus, is a logical solution. While the long-term solutions lie in the empowerment of the poor, food security will, in fact, seeks to be precursor in that direction.

from:  Mahesh J
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 02:32 IST

Harish Khare has once again displayed his 'Bhakti' to the ruling party in this column by eulogizing the FSB and degrading the honest comments about the intentions of the party which kept mum for 4 years after 2009 election and suddenly wakes up before 2014 to derive electoral benefit. UPA with an economist PM overshadowed by chief of NAC for allowing most expensive subsidy while he and his FM always cry hoarse about reducing subsidies on every item of public consumption. On one hand NREGS created shortage of critical manpower required in villages for agriculture, this FSB would create more demand for liquor and other items due to disposable income available to the people. consequently PM and FM are fully aware that we are generating a new class of less productive manpower who would have otherwise been available for farming and other productive ventures. Harish may well get answers from his masters how this 'unproductivity' can be brought down.

from:  MVJRao
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 01:52 IST

The author seems to have got the whole point wrong. No one is saying that the poor should not be fed, we are all for equality. The issue with the people is are the following
1) Where did the concern for the poor go for the past 9 years that the UPA was in power? Did we not have poor then? Why just before elections, and that too without much debate in the Parliament- this itself smacks of a populist measure.
2)Where did the concern for the poor go when all the politicians were busy filling their coffers from National wealth. We have had the largest number of scams in the UPA regime, if that money had been spent honestly then we would not have so many poor people.
3) What about those people who have been honest tax payers till now. They will only have to pay more taxes to this corrupt government so that they can come back to power and loot us more. The Hindu should make my views public.

from:  Nitya
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 01:40 IST

Sir, when tax holidays are given, when lands are acquired for peanuts, taxes lowered for companies sack etc., etc., does anybody makes cry? When periodically DA is announced does anybody. ........

from:  Siluvainathan
Posted on: Aug 30, 2013 at 00:39 IST
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