Amartya Sen backs food Bill, slams Opposition for stalling Parliament

NatAmartya Sen at the Press Club of India in New Delhi on Monday. PTI

The UPA government, facing blockade of Parliament with the BJP refusing to discuss any Bill till the Law and Railway ministers resign, got a shot in the arm as Nobel laureate Amartya Sen on Monday sought to blame the Opposition for disruption in the House and backed the Food Bill in its present form.

If the Opposition had objections to the policies of the government, the responsible response would be to debate these issues in Parliament rather than disrupt and kill all debate, Sen said.

"Killing debate" raised the suspicion that the Opposition's arguments were weak, he added.

Speaking at a press conference organised by the Right to Food campaign, in the presence of former NAC member Jean Dreze and activists Kavita Krishnan and Nikhil Dey, Sen agreed that the current version of the Food Bill was "moderate", yet, he argued, it would lead to a substantial enhancement of entitlements of the poor through the PDS.

"Whether the Bill goes far enough is another question, but the case for passing it without delay in the best possible form was very strong," added Sen.

Focussing on the need to "ensure debate and discussion around vital issues", Sen said Indians needed to talk of the opportunity cost of not passing the Bill, "in terms of number of children left malnourished or dead due to lack of access to food, because the Food Bill was not allowed to be passed", and generate public opinion.

Responding to comments on the state of Indian democracy in the light of Parliament not being allowed to function, he said, "Democracy was well and alive in India, but just that skills to do with allowing democratic practice needed honing."

He gave example of the US which was "learning to work around the filibustering techniques" of Senate members who chose to stall policy they didn't agree with.

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