Manmonia's FSB: 3% of GDP

The food security bill, sorry emergency ordinance, if implemented honestly, will cost 3 per cent of the GDP in its very first year

We have an emergency of the rarest order. The BJP stops Parliament and therefore the government passes an emergency privilege provided by the Constitution to pass the food security ordinance.

The bill, sorry ordinance, wants to provide food to the poor in order to eliminate poverty. This, according to the Congress, was Sonia Gandhi's dream, and indeed was part of the Congress manifesto in 2009. Again, if Congress spokespersons are to be believed, this is a pathbreaking attempt to eliminate poverty. It will give the poor a legal right to claim their 5 kg of rice, wheat or coarse cereals a month at the subsidised rates of Rs 3, 2, and 1 per kg, respectively.

This act-to-be follows the same pattern and motivation as the employment guarantee act passed in 2005. At that time, the Congress had claimed this would provide much-needed employment to the poor, that it was something "new" being offered. They never once mentioned that government-guaranteed employment was first provided by the state of Maharashtra, and since the early 1980s, it has been part of Central government schemes. The food security bill (FSB) is merely an extension of the public distribution system of foodgrains that has been in operation by all Central governments since the late 1970s.

The import of this is to partly nail the blatant spin (lie!) that the Congress government is adding to its list of scams. But they can be forgiven, because this is an election year and by all accounts, the Congress is desperate. From a policy point of view, the relevance is that Indian governments and polity have considerable experience with employment guarantee schemes, as well as food distribution schemes. What does this experience tell us?

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