(Online Course) Contemporary Issues for IAS Mains 2012: The Hindu -Food Security & The Cup of Tantalus

The Hindu

Food Security & The Cup of Tantalus

Q. Point out the Key issues of Food Security.

  • The key issue in food security, which has received almost no attention from either those who advocate or those who oppose the Food Security Bill, is neither the adequacy of supplies nor the financial resources required but the question of ‘last mile’ delivery:

  • How to get the food out to close on a billion people spread throughout the country from the remotest hamlets to the most vibrant urban centres.

  • There is little point in undertaking the gargantuan task (and expenditure) of procuring, storing and transporting the grain unless the foodgrains package actually reaches the intended beneficiaries.

Q. Suggested Measures to the Successful Implementation of Food Security.

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  • If these panchayats and nagarpalikas, and their respective local women’s self-help groups, are empowered through detailed State legislation, based on chapter XII provisions, to exercise the functions devolved on them in respect of food security, and provided both the finances and the functionaries to undertake last mile delivery, then the community, which has the singular stake in ensuring food security for itself, will be able to hold the local institution of self-government responsible for delivering or failing to deliver on food security.

  • First, the expression “local authority” must be replaced by the words “local institutions of self-government constituted under Articles 243G and W of the Constitution”. Second, the State legislatures must, in terms of these Constitutional provisions, be charged with the task of legislating the “duties and responsibilities” that must vest in the panchayats and nagarpalikas, particularly in view of Entry 28 “Public Distribution System” of the Eleventh

  • Third, in a separate schedule to the draft bill, the specific functions to be devolved to each tier of the three-tier systemof panchayat raj should be detailed alongwith the simultaneous devolution of finances and functionaries to undertake last mile delivery.

  • Fourth, to avoid panchayat raj becoming sarpanch raj, there must be statutory provision for each elected local body to have a committee of members, including all lady representatives, to oversee the local women’s self-help groups. Fifth, the role of the District Planning Committees set up under Article 243 ZD (and ZE for the metropolitan areas) in regard to determining and projecting the district’s requirements of food security must be clearly spelt out.

Delete the Errors to Save the Census

Q. Point out the limitation of the Socio Economic and Caste Census (SECC)

  • Basic information on each household from the National Population Register (NPR) is already pre-loaded on the tablet.

  • The tablets designed by Bharat Electronics Ltd are sturdy and of a relatively low cost.

  • The main problem with using them is that there is no paper trail for families to verify data. And often there is a slip.

  • The operators are also inadequately trained.

  • The most important area of concern is the definition of a household.

  • Land is another question where anomalies could potentially exclude millions of deserving families.

  • The trouble is that most enumerators do not even enquire whether the land owned by a household is irrigated and the number of crops sown each year — both key exclusion criteria.

  • Too many villagers are not even aware of this exercise or its significance. Often they are not even at home when the enumerators arrive.

  • So far, the data has also not been published at the gram sabha level for villagers to verify or apply for corrections.

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