The Indian Lok Sabha (Lower House of the Parliament) has passed the Food Security Bill. But can the tottering Indian economy afford it? Ashutosh Misra investigates
Old wine in new bottle best describes the Food Security Bill passed by the Indian lower house of Parliament, Lok Sabha, on August 26, 2013. Why? Because Indian politicians have been adept at purchasing votes. From distributing blanket and booze to colour TVs and even cash, they have never shied away from trying to win by hook or by crook. Sonia Gandhi has just given it a more polished look. She rightly calls it the “Empowerment Revolution” as she has gambled on the bill bringing Congress back to power in the 2014 polls. Congress discovered the hard way that the voters differed on the party’s perception of Rahul Gandhi being its trump card and has paid a heavy price for it. The problem with the new trump card, the Food Security Bill, is that India will have to foot an annual bill of $20 billion for Congress’s follies. The rupee hit a new low against the US dollar and the benchmark BSE index Sensex shed 3 percent as an immediate after-effect of the Food Bill.
Prudent financial planning simply means living within one’s means. The proponents of the Food Security Bill seem to have never heard of it. One of Sonia Gandhi’s economic policy heavyweights, deputy chairman of the Indian Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia confessed on TV that the Food Bill was a case of political expediency. The reply came when he was preaching that the government should cut down on expenditure and the TV anchor cross-questioned him on Sonia Gandhi’s pet project. The Indian growth story has been crippled by the spendthrift Congress-led government.
The National Advisory Council has done to India what George Bush Jr did to the US. The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party hopes to improve the Bill if it comes to power. As the corruption cases over the last few years have shown, politicians and bureaucrats cannot be trusted. The Food Bill opens a new avenue for both. Sonia’s husband and former Prime Minister of India Rajiv Gandhi used to lament that merely 15 paise out of one rupee meant for the poor reached the intended beneficiaries. The way corruption has bloomed, the amount would now be even less. Sonia and Congress may talk of Aadhar, IT revolution and various schemes for poor being a case of Rajiv Gandhi’s dreams being realised but they have failed on what Rajiv had underlined as the main problem facing India, i.e. Corruption. In fact, they have played a key part in this cancer spreading wider. The rise in Chinese and Pakistani incursions into Indian territory is a tell-tale sign as to how India has further lost the respect of its foes and friends alike. Once touted as world’s second-fastest growing nation which could take on the Chinese bully, today it is humiliated by Beijing over and over again.
The poor must be protected and fed but a country which spends beyond its means will only make things worse for its citizens, especially the poor
As China has shown economic might gets you friends and respect. Indian politicians obviously know this because in elections its money power that triumphs. But they are not ready to put country’s interest before self interest. The poor must be protected and fed but a country which spends beyond its means will only make things worse for its citizens, especially the poor. A statesman thinks of the next generation but a politician’s vision is limited to the next election only.