Pro India

The food bill has been passed! Who could have stalled or voted against a bill for the poor! No political party that aspires to win the upcoming elections. So there was a sort of a debate and sort of assurances and then the bill was passed! I wish bills for women or children got the same treatment.

India is a POOR country and our leaders like to keep it that way! 75% of our village population and 50% of our urban population is officially POOR! Where do we fall I wonder. I guess we are the ones who will have to pay for this in some way or the other. I feel ashamed of the way such figures are brandished after 66 years of Independence. What every one is tom tomming about is that no one will sleep hungry now. 5 kilos of uncooked grain is enough to fill your stomach. The ruling party has fulfilled its promise of eradicating hunger and malnutrition. Why was this done just before elections is far too suspect. This party has been in power for a decade. Was it fair to leave poor hungry for so many years.

But I  feel a little lost in all this. I am no economist but simply a citizen of India and I cannot understand how we are sometimes told that to be classified as poor you have to be spending less then 32 rs in a city, which makes no one really poor and then you are told almost 70% of us are poor and need subsidised food grain. It all looks Orwellian to me. On the one hand we want to be a 'super' power, but on the other hand we are quite happy passing a bill that actually qualifies 3/4 of India as poor.

The question that arises is that keeping in mind our track record in implementing any of the pro poor programmes, one is justified in thinking and even believing that this Bill will go the same way. Many will profit from it, many will misuse it and the really poor will never get anything as they will fall out of the net of complex administrative procedures. If everything was kosher then the ICDS programme launched more than three decades ago should have ensured that every baby born post 1975 should have been healthy! Where the ICDS stopped that is at the age of 6, the midday meal was to take over. We all know the reality. So if we could not run those programmes why should we think that the new bill will eradicate malnutrition. What we need is running something like open soup kitchens for the destitute and providing employment and dignity to the ones we love calling POOR!

The same government passed the Right to Education Bill. What should have ensued is the upgrading of all state run schools to Central school level - also run by the state - and thus having children of all social profiles walk to their school.  Instead, the state decided to 'reserve' - how we love that verb - 25% seats in all public and private schools. I work with slum kids and let me tell you none of the kids we know have availed of this reservation as their parents are illiterate, do not have the wherewithal to fulfil all the paper work needed. It is the middle class who can afford to pay for their children who have usurped this reservation for their kids as they know how to make false income certificates, false rent agreement and false everything else that is needed. It would be interesting to do an audit of the social profile of the children who are registered under this category.

So be prepared for surprises when the food security bill is implemented! When will our politicians become pro India