Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Poverty,Politics and PDS

Only 40 % of our agricultural land is irrigated.Yet we have emerged as one of the largest producers of Wheat,Rice,Oil seeds,Cotton, Sugar, Tea, Coffee,Fruits & Vegetables in the world.We are the largest producers of Milk, Eggs & Paultry.We are the fifth largest producers of Fish.When we achieve 100 % irrigation for our farm lands, we will able to feed entire Asia! But with all these bounties, we are unable to feed our poor.We are unable to deliver these bounties to the needy at reasonable prices.This should be treated as one of the greatest tragedies of our times, next only to World wars,Bombing of Hiroshima- Nagasaki,Holocaust,Genocides in Kambodia and Darfur...

We operate the largest Public Distribution System[ PDS] in the world.Unfortunately, it is also the most inefficient, most corrupt and most wasteful of such systems in the world.By government's own admission, it [ the government] spends Rs 3.65 to deliver goods worth one rupee to its citizens.

As Chairperson of UPA II, Mrs Sonia Gandhi has advised the Central Government to enact a " Food Security Law".Under this law, every poor house hold or family living Below Poverty Line[ BPL] is to be given 35 Kgs of food grain per month at Rs 3 per Kg. The Law, when enacted will be implemented through the aforesaid PDS ! Under PDS there is no hope for our poor or for our farmers or even for our honest grain dealers.

Though severely handicapped by the administration and monsoons, our farmers have taken us to the pinnacles of glory as described above.Our middle classes , also helped the nation emerge as an IT power house in the last two decades of 20th century.This IT revolution was set in motion by Mrs Sonia Gandhi's late husband Mr Rajiv Gandhi.It is tragic that the present government headed by Mr Sonia Gandhi's party has not examined the use of IT to service our poor.Large number of experts and economists have warned the government of the disaster that awaits it, if it tries to do anything via PDS. Instead, Information Technology [ IT] should be deployed to effect direct cash transfers to our poor.We have about 6 crore house holds, identified as BPL.It is not difficult to register these house holds with the banks and carry out monthly transfer of cash to their accounts.To make them more effective, such accounts should be opened and operated by the mother of the family. There is no reason to believe that our poor will not use such cash to buy the food grains etc from open markets. Such system will eliminate all middlemen.Will eliminate waste of food grains in transit & need for wasteful storage of food grains. This is not a hare brained scheme.Mr Chandra Babu Naidu of TDP promised this in his last election manifesto in Andhra Pradesh.With Mr Nandan Nilekani in the government, with Infy, TCS,Wipro and all, it is the easiest way to lift our poor from centuries old hunger and deprivation.It is also the cheapest way ! Dr Manmohan Singh is an economist.He should know better.

If we fail to deploy our IT skills to service our poor, history will not forget us.IT is not an elitist concept.It is a powerful new way to conduct our public affairs.

Read today's newspaper reports.61000 tones of food grains are rotting in Punjab and Haryana alone! Instead of feeding our poor, FCI [ Food Corporation Of India],PDS and Civil Supply ministries are determined to destroy us.I want to know the expenditure for salaries and perquisites for FCI employees.It will be several hundred crores per year.And look what they are doing.Their minister says, nation does not have enough storage capacities for food grains.Read following post.

Following information is recently furnished by the government in reply to an RTI quarry.
1.Between 1997 & 2007, 1.63 lakhMT of wheat,6.33lakhMT of rice, 2.2lakhMT of paddy and 1.11lakhMT of corn were destroyed due to poor storage.96 Lakh MT & 1.6 crore MT of food grains have been destroyed in 2008 & 2009 respectively due to poor storage.
Against Mr Sharad Pawar's contention that FCI lacks adequate storage capacities,RTI reply states that it is more than enough.Here is how.

Nation wide storage capacity - aprox 256.64 lakh tons - Capacity utilized -218.35 lakh tons

Zone wise utilization - Actual utilization v/s installed capacity

West - 32.29 lakh tons v/s 43.30lakh tons
East - 17.11 lakh tons v/s 23.99 lakh tons
North East - 3.5 lakh tons v/s 4.48 lakh tons
North - 11.22 lakh tons v/s 127.48 lakh tons [ see the surplus storage capacity]
South - 54.24 lakh tons v/s 57.39 lakh tons.
These facts furnished by the government itself fly in the faces of all those who are paid by the public to ensure proper storage and distribution of food grains.

I have obtained these figures from a vernacular Gujarati daily- Gujarat Samachar.They have published a full page story on the matter of national importance and national shame.Also published are the Supreme court directives to FCI to ensure zero wastage of food grains.

Congress party,CBI and media are busy celebrating, prosecuting and reporting arrest of a minister belonging to opposition party.

This is the state of our nation - Farmers produce food, government buys it, but can't deliver it to poor.Ruling party instead of addressing these issues,misuses CBI.So called national media,instead of highlighting such glaring lapses of the government, expends their energies in reporting such frivolous incidents.

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