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Hail of criticism for pro-poor Food Bill

Opposition to proposed law from all quarters

The Food Bill aims to enable more than half the population to buy subsidized grains The Food Bill aims to enable more than half the population to buy subsidized grains
  • Swati Deb, New Delhi
  • India
  • January 21, 2013
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Government efforts to bring in legislation that would secure staple food supplies for India’s poor has met with skepticism across the board, from local state governments, political parties and analysts.

The Indian parliament aims to enshrine the proposed Food Bill as law by the end of March. It would entitle about 67 percent of the population to get grains at subsidized rates.

An estimated 820 million beneficiaries would be able to buy rice, wheat and millet at prices as low as one rupee per kg.

One of the numerous objectors, communist party member TN Seema, believes the entitlements do not go far enough.

“The bill should be universal in nature with no caps artificially decided,” he told ucanews.com.

"Creating artificial barriers of 75 percent beneficiaries in rural areas and 50 percent beneficiaries in urban pockets undermines the fundamental concept of food security."

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) and other leftist parties have also dismissed the bill in its present form. Crucially, the socialist Samajwadi Party, which extends support to the federal government and whose opinion could be vital in passing the bill, has added to the criticism.

On a local level, a number of state governments including Tamil Nadu and West Bengal have attacked it for adding unnecessarily to their burdens.

“The bill only outlines the states’ responsibilities, without giving them adequate options to tap revenues,” said S Adhikari of West Bengal's Trinamool (Grassroots) Congress.

He told ucanews.com that his party’s government in the state already faces financial crisis.

“The federal government's motives for bringing in such a bill are political,” he said.

Accusations of political opportunism have been echoed by several others.

NGO activist Himanshu Kumar said the bill has been guided by populism.

“The food security will only be on paper and for politicians,” he said. “The bill does not seek to reduce imbalances in the hunger and nutrition situation in different parts of the country." 

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