ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Assessing an Index


Issn 0012-9976


Issn 0012-9976

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Nonadanga Slum-Dwellers Attacked

he People’s Union for Democratic Rights (PUDR) strongly condemns the violent demolition of the Nonadanga slums on 30 March 2012 in Kolkata, and the subsequent police brutality on peaceful anti-eviction protests followed by the vindictive arrest of activists.

Nonadanga is the area where the Kolkata Metropolitan Development Authority (KMDA) has been resettling slumdwellers evicted from various parts of Kolkata over the past five years under the Basic Services to Urban Poor (BSUP) scheme of the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission. The resettlement projects have been run by KMDA and the Kolkata Environmental Improvement Project (KEIP) jointly. Preliminary reports indicate that slum residents also include refugees from Singur and Nandigram, as well as people displaced by Cyclone Aila. So, by no stretch of logic are these slum-dwellers “encroachers” as claimed by the state government. In fact, the land in Nonadanga is very close to a prime city location and the present drive to clear the space by the Trinamool government is the fi rst step towards its plans of handing over this land to real estate companies for “beautification and development”.

PUDR notes with concern that this demolition, attacks and arrests come in a continuum of a worsening democratic rights situation in West Bengal. Another alarming phenomenon is the bringing out of the “Maoist” bogey to defi ne all democratic movements as if that gives the state unmitigated rights to disregard the law and crush people’s movements and aspirations with armed might.

PUDR demands that the eviction drive be stopped, all arrested activists be immediately and unconditionally released, the demolished slum be rebuilt, the guilty police offi cials be punished, and the West Bengal government stop attacking the fundamental rights of people to voice their protest against injustices.

Preeti Chauhan, Paramjeet Singh


april 21, 2012

Expand the Food Security Bill

his is in response to some criticisms on aspects of the Food Subsidy, Food Availability and the National Food Security Bill, 2011 (NFSB).

While the NFSB is still under consideration by Parliament’s standing committee, there have been a plethora of critiques of this legislation. A signifi cant number of these critiques are a thinly veiled attempt at derailing the legislation on the grounds of food availability and affordability. It is frightening to see arguments that talk of dismantling the entire public distribution system (PDS), replacing grains with cash or arriving at some sort of compromise “solution” by reducing the grain entitlement to a paltry 25 kg per household. These alternative formulations are being justifi ed on the grounds of lack of availability of food and funds and seek to reduce the already minimalist propositions of the offi cial NFSB.

The Right to Food Campaign would like to strongly argue that the question is one of political will. Why do the critics of the NFSB remain silent on the huge subsidies to the tune of more than Rs 4 lakh crore to corporate and service sectors through low taxation rates, tax waivers, etc, that are depleting the exchequer, but are quick to suggest ways in which the government can cut costs on dealing with hunger.

The governments as well as several experts who are opposed to food subsidy do not wish to squarely address the problem of hunger and malnutrition. To those who say that there is not enough grain in the country and therefore PDS should be cut down (either in grain quantity or number of benefi ciaries) or substituted with cash, we wish to point out that total government procurement is now only around 25% of production (and that too only of wheat and rice). If they were willing to think a little more “out of the box”, they would see the tremendous potential of an expanded PDS (near universal, with increased and comprehensive entitlements) for agrarian revival and for a boost to food crop production.

vol xlviI no 16

Economic & Political Weekly


Why are the many critics of NFSB silent on the demands of the campaign that the Act provide for effective restructuring of procurement, storage and distribution of grain: procurement of food grains from all mandis at fair and assured prices and, as far as possible, local distribution of local procurement. The importance of government procurement to rice-wheat farming in the current m ajor procurement areas suggests that farmers will respond positively to such measures. If pulses and oil seeds were added to the PDS to ensure nutritional security this would also boost agricultural production in the now neglected dryland areas, and of dryland crops. Importantly, it would also reduce the current prohibitively high transportation costs that are now as much as 30% of the economic cost of procured cereals.

Further, it is also absurd to carry on a debate on the basis of shortage of foodgrains when, for around two years now, the Food Corporation of I ndia godowns have been bursting, with the government adamantly refusing to expand distribution at lower prices. Currently, there are about 54 million tonnes in stock and based on last year’s experience we can expect around 20 million tonnes of wheat to be procured in the next couple of months taking it to more than 70 million metric tonnes. In fact, this is the ideal time for the government to introduce a universal PDS. The NFSB, by including reforms in procurement, can then ensure that such a system can sustain itself in the longer term as well.

We hope that the debate around the food security bill is elevated to discuss these issues, rather than trying to fi nd “solutions” within the artifi cial framework and limits set by a section within the government.

The campaign reaffirms the need for a comprehensive food security bill that includes the following:

• A universal PDS, distributing cereals, millets, pulses and oil, that covers the whole population, especially the food insecure, the vulnerable, and the deprived. The quantity should be decided on the basis of the Indian Council of Medical Research norms per adult consumption, and thus include 14 kg cereal, 800 gm oil and 1.5 kg pulses per head (half for children).

  • Appropriate minimum support price, procurement from all mandis of all types of grain and localised storage.
  • Removal of poverty ratio-based caps in allocation of resources by the government.
  • Kavita Srivastava

    Convenor, Right to Food Campaign

    Protect PDS

    his is in response to Peter Svedberg’s “Reforming or Replacing the Public Distribution System with Cash Transfers?” (EPW, 18 February 2012).

    The author has argued for cash transfers to replace the existing public distribution system (PDS). He has used National Sample Survey data which is not a proper methodology since the Planning Commission itself has stated that consumption expenditure is underestimated by the NSS. There is no ground to reduce expenditures on welfare programmes.

    The PDS is, in fact, a very big and useful programme taking care of the neglected masses and downtrodden sections of Indian society. Further, the food security bill too confirms the relevance of the PDS. There are certain defects in the PDS mechanism which have been stated by the author, such as wastages, leakages diversion, underutilisation, exclusion and inclusion errors, etc. But this does not imply that PDS should be replaced by cash transfers as suggested by the author. It is necessary to find ways to improve the quality of the PDS rather than destroying it through cash transfers. Measures need to be worked out to address the corruption in the PDS and remove the errors in the inclusion and exclusion, respectively, of the below-poverty-line and abovepoverty-line beneficiaries. Given the social and administrative conditions, there is no guarantee that cash transfers given to the needy and targeted people will be spent on essential items of food and that it will not be monopolised by the dominant family member, or even spent on harmful goods like alcohol. It remains doubtful whether the cash transfers will improve the consumption standard of the masses in India.

    Raosaheb Gyanobarao Jadhav

    Patpanhale College


    Assessing an Index

    his is with reference to Martin Ravallion, “Corruption in the MGNREGS” (EPW, 25 February 2012).

    While agreeing with the prevalence of corruption in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) it would be appropriate to emphasise that all is not well insofar as its implementation is concerned. It is the flagship programme of the United Progressive Alliance government, and has received very high allocations of public money in budget after budget. Surjit Bhalla is right in concluding the high incidence of corruption in Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan through his corruption index. Preliminary results of our recent study also corroborate the fact that the level of corruption is high in Andhra Pradesh though it appeared that the systems are in place and the implementation is going on smoothly. While there is a delay in the payment of wages to the labourers, there are very few durable assets that are created in the programme. It was also reported that there is a shortage of labour for agriculture during sowing and harvesting seasons due to the implementation of the programme.

    As a matter of fact, Andhra Pradesh’s rural development minister declared in the media that corruption in the scheme amounted to Rs 108 crore so far, whereas Rs 18 crore of that has been recovered. This only shows that the level of corruption in the programme is very high in the state giving rise to doubts about the commitment of autho rities in its implementation. Secondly, social audit has become a routine affair in many places without people’s participation.

    T Prabhakara Reddy

    Satavahana Development Studies


    Economic & Political Weekly

    april 21, 2012 vol xlviI no 16

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    april 21, 2012 vol xlviI no 16

    Economic & Political Weekly

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