Against the foodgrain

The UPA 2 government has completed its first two years in office. The Food Security Bill continues to elude consensus. Every now and then there is a new announcement that a comprehensive bill is round the corner. In the meantime, foodgrain rots and hunger remains unabated. Uncertainty surrounds even the existing unsatisfactory arrangements. So, what are the key issues that need to be resolved?

First and foremost, the scope of the bill. Should this only cover those who are below poverty line (BPL) or should it also cover the above poverty line (APL) families? After all, the right to food is the universal right of every citizen. It is true that those who are BPL, who are on the edge of hunger, must be our overriding priority. But how can we call something a "right" if everyone does not have it?

Second, what is the methodology which should be used to define BPL? Should this only be based on minimum calorific intake without regard to nutritional efficiencies? It is well-recognised that unless the entitlement covers clean drinking water, sanitation, hygiene and primary healthcare, along with deficiencies of micro nutrients, the absorptive capacity for food would be seriously compromised. So the question is, what do we want to achieve from the Food Security Bill? After all, it must enable every child, woman and man to have an opportunity for a healthy and productive life beyond mere access to calories required for existence. Therefore, the food security legislation should aim at overcoming the challenges of food security without losing sight of the broad definition and components of food security that have come to be accepted across the world. The interrelation between food and social security cannot be ignored and any effort of guaranteeing one without the rest will render food security ineffective

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