The Food Se­cu­rity Bill aims to erad­i­cate hunger and mal­nu­tri­tion. But ex­perts feel in its cur­rent form, it can nei­ther ad­dress mal­nu­tri­tion nor ex­ist­ing PDS leak­ages.

India Today - - NATION - By Prachi Bhuchar

Far from the din of busy kebab stalls and the rau­cous nightly en­ter­tain­ment that char­ac­terises many by­lanes of Lucknow, in the shadow of the his­toric Kais­erbagh palace on the banks of the Gomti river, lies Babu Na­gar, an ur­ban slum. Mawai Gupta, 50, and his fam­ily of four have been liv­ing here since the slum was set up over a decade ago. A car­pen­ter, he is the fam­ily’s sole bread­win­ner and earns Rs 1,500- 2,000 a month; this puts him squarely in the Be­low Poverty Line ( BPL) cat­e­gory. He even has a ra­tion card to prove his sta­tus. Hunger is a daily re­al­ity here and his fam- ily de­pends heav­ily on sub­sidised ra­tions pro­vided un­der the cur­rent Pub­lic Dis­tri­bu­tion Sys­tem ( PDS). His wife rolls thick cha­p­at­tis for the fam­ily but is un­happy they can’t buy oil or dal. Mawai gets 15 kg wheat at Rs 4.65/ kg and 20 kg rice at Rs 6.15/ kg, and says, “Ra­tion shops don’t give sub­sidised dals to BPL fam­i­lies. I have two chil­dren with high nu­tri­tional needs and wish dals were cheaper.” He has a vague idea that a Food Se­cu­rity Bill is in the pipe­line and says he is hope­ful the Govern­ment will give cash trans­fers in­stead of ra­tions. He says, “If we get money, we’ll not buy only rice or wheat but can buy pulses and veg­eta­bles as well.”

Is this the stuff pipe dreams are made of? The bill makes per­fect sense to some econ­o­mists who say the bur­den on the ex­che­quer will be min­i­mal as it is merely an ex­ten­sion of the ex­ist­ing PDS. Yet, food pol­icy ex­perts say in its cur­rent form, it will fail to meet its ob­jec­tive of al­le­vi­at­ing hunger.



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