Category: Public distribution system (PDS)

Food subsidy – reining in bogus claims alone is not reform

According to the medium-term expenditure framework [MTEF] statement recently released by the finance ministry, the food subsidy bill of the union government is projected to increase from Rs 145,000 crore during the current year to Rs 175,000 crores during 2018-19 and further to Rs 200,000 crores during 2019-20. This comes as a big disappointment to all those who have been anxiously looking forward to Modi – government deliver on its reforms agenda especially in regard to food subsidy which is a big resource guzzler – next only to interest payments and pension. Considering that such an assessment [steep increase] is being made less than two years before its term comes to an end implies that no reform is in the...
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Yogi – Modi onslaught on poverty

The just concluded assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh [UP] were fought in the backdrop of deteriorating law and order situation, hostile environment for investment, crumbling infrastructure [sans a few pockets in urban areas], widespread farmers distress, their high level of indebtedness and acute shortage of bare necessities viz. home, food, education, health, water and electricity. The poor investment climate and pathetic law and order discouraged industrialists and businessmen from setting up factories/shops even as existing establishments were facing closure. Together with farming being un-remunerative/losing proposition, this made a deadly cocktail leading to large-scale loss of jobs and in turn, migration of youth en mass to other states such as Maharashtra and Gujarat. Promises galore BJP led by Modi promised liberation...
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Exclude the better-off

FOOD SUBSIDY The National Food Security Act (NFSA) enacted by the then UPA – government in 2013 guarantees availability of 5 kg of cereals per person per month at Rs 3 per kg rice, Rs 2 per kg wheat and Rs 1 per kg coarse cereals to 67% of India’s population (75% rural & 50% urban). The cost of making food available being substantially higher, this entails massive subsidy payment. Subsidy is financial supports given by government to enable a person buy a commodity which he cannot afford with his limited income. Prudence demands that this should be given for a temporary period to avoid perennial burden on the exchequer. This period should be used to enable him earn more...
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Food subsidy reform – unlikely in Modi’s term

The National Food Security Act (NFSA) enacted by the then UPA – government in 2013 guarantees availability of 5 kg of cereals per person per month at Rs 3 per kg rice, Rs 2 per kg wheat & Rs 1 per kg coarse cereals to 67% of India’s population (75% rural & 50% urban). This is an astounding admission that six-and-a-half decade after independence, nearly 800 million of country’s population are so poor that food has to be supplied at close to ‘zero’ price. Subsidy is financial supports given by government to enable a person buy a commodity or service which he cannot afford with his limited income. As a matter of prudent policy, this should be given for a...
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Vanishing food stocks and bleeding banks

For the first time ever in the history of food procurement, storage, movement and distribution by state agencies, India has faced an unprecedented situation of hibernating food stocks worth Rs 20,000 crores in Punjab. The stocks were mostly funded using cash credit taken from a consortium of public sector banks [PSBs]. In an equally unprecedented move, the Reserve Bank of India [RBI] – the regulator of banks – has directed concerned PSBs to declare the mentioned loan as non-performing assets [NPAs] and accordingly make a provision of 7.5% during the quarter ending March 31, 2016 and another 7.5% during Qr ending June 30, 2016 for now. That adds to Rs 3000 crores [15% of Rs 20,000 crores] and will correspondingly...
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Dismantle TPDS, give cash to poor

For all those couched in socialistic mindset and obstinate about keeping complete control on food supply and distribution in pursuit of food security – regardless of all the negatives that go with it – need to take a look at a report of the Comptroller and Auditor General [CAG] on “Procurement and milling of paddy for Central pool” tabled in the Parliament on December 8, 2015. But, first a word on the trigger for audit by CAG is in order. A whistle-blower in Odisha had alleged that close to Rs 10,000 crores of black money was being generated every day as millers were hiding or under-reporting earnings from sale of paddy by-products. Reportedly, the Prime Minister’s Office [PMO] had forwarded...
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Direct income support – half-a-dozen speed breakers ahead

In January 2013 the then UPA – government had announced a nation-wide roll-out of direct benefit transfer [DBT] – an acronym for transfer of subsidy amount in to the bank account of the beneficiary. But, the mission remained on paper as even in LPG [liquefied petroleum gas] where it was launched on a limited scale June, 2013, the plan was abandoned in January, 2014. Modi – government resurrected DBT for LPG in November, 2014 in select districts and by January, 2015 embraced all 676 districts in India. Emboldened by its success [leakages have been completely eliminated and this alone would result in saving of over Rs 10,000 crores annually] is now planning big to cover all other subsidies viz., kerosene,...
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India’s food reforms – trapped in ‘twilight’ zone

Pressure is mounting on the government even from within to fix a much higher minimum support price (MSP) for paddy during July – June 2015-16 agriculture crop season than the amount recommended by the Commission on Agriculture Cost and Prices (CACP). The CACP had recommended a modest increase of 4% which translates to about Rs 50 per quintal over existing price of Rs 1360 per quintal for common variety of paddy. On the other hand, some sections within government are gunning for a hike of double this amount or Rs 100 per quintal. Meanwhile, farmers organizations e.g. Bharat Krishak Samaj (BKS) have resurrected demand for bonus over and above MSP that some states viz., Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh etc were giving...
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Volte-face on food reforms

On August 15, 2014 the prime minister had announced government’s intent to trifurcate Food Corporation of India (FCI) in to three entities each devoted to procurement, handling and distribution. Being a cosmetic exercise and far from making a dent on maladies afflicting the sector, the announcement failed to enthuse analysts. In a (pleasant) surprise turn of events, a committee constituted up under chairmanship of Mr Shanta Kumar – a senior leader of BJP and ex-minister in the NDA government under Vajpayee – has come up with recommendations which are out-of-the-box and hold a promise of bringing about a ‘paradigm shift’ in India’s food economy. It recommends:- (i)   drastic curtailment in the role of the state/government in addressing food needs...
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Unleashing reforms in food sector

Prime Minister, Modi has directed the food ministry to take a look at the recommendations of the Shanta Kumar committee on restructuring and re-orientation of food procurement, handling and distribution system and prepare action points for consideration by the cabinet committee on economic affairs (CCEA). The committee was set up in the back drop of Modi’s statement in his Independence Day address on August 15, 2014 that his government was considering to trifurcate the operations of monolith Food Corporation of India (FCI) in to three distinct entities each focusing on procurement, handling and distribution with a view to improve efficiency and reduce cost. This had left an impression that the existing dispensation of government buying ‘unlimited’ quantities of food from farmers...
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