THE HUNGER GAMES
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.
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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