The clamour from within the Congress to name the Food Security law after Rajiv Gandhi notwithstanding, party president Sonia Gandhi has indicated a preference to christen the programme ‘Indiramma’ — a name that seeks to reflect the importance given to mothers in the legislation while retaining the Gandhi family’s seal on this endeavour.
Union Minister for Rural Development Jairam Ramesh and Minister of State for Food K.V. Thomas have been entrusted with the task of finding an appropriate name for the scheme that entitles people to food and nutritional security.
Prof. Thomas said his Ministry was looking into the legal aspects of naming the scheme. About the reasoning that has gone into zeroing in on ‘Indiramma’, he pointed out that the food security law registers the eldest woman of the house as the head of the family instead of the eldest man.
By choosing ‘Indiramma’ over other options from the Nehru-Gandhi fold, the Congress president has also sought to project the food security law as an articulation of the Congress party’s commitment to the unfinished ‘Garibi Hatao’ agenda — a clarion call given by former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ahead of the 1971 elections.
That the Congress is hoping that the food security law will be a gamechanger like the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) in the upcoming polls is no secret and clearly, the party is working overtime to reap the political spin-offs. In particular, the Congress does not want a repetition of the NREGA roll-out experience when some Opposition-ruled States sought to name it differently and take credit for the Centrally-sponsored scheme. This forced the UPA-II government to bring in another law to rename NREGA after Mahatma Gandhi.
Distributing food in
5 kilo packets
Also under consideration is a proposal to distribute the food in five kilo packets on the premise that it would stop losses in distribution; be it in the form of pilferage or wastage. Currently, commodities distributed through the public distribution system are weighed out to ration-card holders as per entitlement.
Since every person eligible under the food security law has a right to five kilos of food grains per month, the major rice and wheat producing States of Andhra Pradesh and Punjab are being consulted on the feasibility of packaging them in five kilo packets according to the specifications laid down by the Bureau of Indian Standards.
This, Prof. Thomas said, would ensure quality and quantity. Also on the cards is a logo for the scheme to give it a distinctive quality. Coupled with the ‘Indiramma’ name, the effort is to not only to reap political mileage from this law but also ensure that the flagship food scheme remains a Congress legacy.