To feed hungry Indians
[dropcap]S[/dropcap]ecurity Bill has at long last been passed by the Rajya Sabha albeit by voice vote after a combined discussion on the measure and a statutory resolution seeking to disapprove the ordinance promulgated on July 5 last.
As is prevalent in any democratic set-up, the Opposition notably the arch rival of the Congress, that is the BJP, followed the dictum that the role of an opposition is always to oppose. In theory such an attitude is fine but in practice, there may have to be some variations. The Opposition attacked the Government alleging that the measure was just the repackaging of some existing schemes and a gimmick with an eye on winning the 2014 Lok Sabha general elections.
Whether or not the BJP’s insinuations are justified, the fact remains that despite all the amendments moved by the Opposition to the Bill, it was passed by the Lok Sabha last week.
Political gimmicks or allegations or charges and counter-charges aside, the strategy of the Food Security Bill and the hoped for alleviation of the poorer Indians who comprise the majority is being followed with the greatest of interests by the entire country.
When it fully becomes law, the Bill will guarantee 5 kgs of rice at Rs 3 per kg, plus for wheat at Rs 2 per kg and coarse grains at Re per kg. The staggering cost to the national exchequer is estimated at Rs 1, 30,000 crores through government support. This food security programme will be the largest in the world and usher India into the league of nations that guarantee freedom from hunger to the majority of its population.
This entails requirement of 62 million tonnes of food grains and as Food Minister KV Thomas said, it is not 100 per cent scheme but that it was a “first step”—like any baby step, perhaps—but towards the universalisation of the Public Distribution System (PDS).
The Centre would bear the major part of the financial burden but the Center and the States have to work hand in hand because the Bill also protects whatever existing schemes the States have, emphasized the Minister who also asserted that the Centre was giving much more than what the Standing Committee had recommended.
In any venture where welfare on all fronts of the nation is concerned, the ruling government has been given the electoral mandate to govern for a better deal. In this connection, a strong and viable Opposition will always keep the Government on its toes by virtue of its ability to ensure checks and balances.
An Opposition opposing merely for the sake of opposing is no opposition. It is understandable and even appreciated when it puts forth certain suggestions that would benefit the nation as a whole in the long run. Towards this end the Opposition itself must be on its toes to be able to spar with its favourite rival, that is, the ruling Government.
However, there are times when the Opposition has to join hands with the Government such as war, natural calamities, general law and order and all other aspects that are vital to a nation’s survival The Food Security Bill intends primarily to feed the nation’s poor and whatever be one’s political ideology, no one can dare to oppose such a titanic and gigantic venture.
Food knows no political ideology, no national boundary, no religious dimension, no economic considerations and no racial discrimination just to mention a few instances, That the Congress had taken up the cudgels in this regard on behalf of the millions of the poor in India may perhaps be a matter of regret for the BJP that it did not think of it during its rule at the Centre. However, now that the cards have been dealt, hopefully, the Opposition will also decide to chip in.
To paraphrase Field Marshall Erwin Rommel, a country is as strong and rich as its poorest man!