Sunday, November 18, 2012

Of that food kill Bill

Friend Vipin and Atanu Dey has very interesting article in the Pragati magazine. His way looking at the various issues which is being debated in India on Food Security Bill is very relevant. Below are the concluding paras:

  • Some say that the PDS works in Chattisgarh and in Tamil Nadu. Such statements must be looked upon with caution. What they really mean is that wastage in these states is less than that in other parts of India; failure becomes a benchmark for success. The real judge – and indeed the only economic judge – is how the PDS fares compared to alternate methods of delivering food, namely the market mechanism. History has it that no other mechanism of employing scarce resources holds a candle to market mechanism when it comes to the question of efficiency. The inevitable conclusion is that even in Chattisgarh and Tamil Nadu people would be made better off if the PDS were shut down and citizens provided with food coupons instead.
  • Three months after the UPA government, tabled the Food Security Bill in the parliament a group of thirty-six Indian economists (from MIT, Harvard, Delhi School of Economics, JNU, et al.) wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister (The Hindu, 12 March 2012) greeting the bill as an “important step towards the elimination of hunger and under-nutrition in India” and asking for a few modifications. One is reminded of the years of Nehruvian planning when the great debates were about “how government ought to plan” not “whether government ought to plan”; and nearly all Indian economists toed the government line. Back then B R Shenoy penned the only note of dissent to the Nehru-Mahalanobis second five year plan. India needs the likes of Dr Shenoy today.

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