Here is an editorial I contributed on the issue of food security in the newspaper I presently work for:
This rush does not augur well
Food security is indeed needed for the nation but not the least in the manner as it is being rushed through by the current government
Even if we keep aside the untidy nature of rushing through a National Food Security Ordinance and getting it passed in a jiffy by the President who was till recently a high-ranking minister in the same government, this piece of legislation needed to be debated by the entire parliament in order to give a chance of strengthening it further.
The food security legislation, as passed by the ordinance, encompasses two-thirds of the country's population. If there exists no adequate infrastructure and preparations to implement it to reach every man, woman and child concerned, then a phase-wise approach would have made better sense. In the greed for electoral gains the rushed attempts to reach out to the entire target level could seriously botch up the entire program. The over Rs 1,00,000 crore amount which is expected to be foregone on account of the food security program is not exactly a small sum to fritter away in inefficiencies.
Of course, such high amounts of revenue foregone is not unique to the issue of food security. Other subsidy areas, including petroleum, fertilisers and others, together gobbled up close to Rs 2,50,000 crore in financial year 2012-13. This is not all. The government's statement of revenue foregone to difference between effective tax rates and actual applied tax rates for FY13 indicated huge sums such as Rs 68,000 crore for corporate taxpayers, Rs 37,000 crore for individual taxpayers, Rs 2,06,000 crore in excise duties and Rs 2,56,000 crore in customs duties.
Consider, for instance, the break-up of revenue foregone in customs duties, Rs 61,000 crore for gold and other precious stones and their jewellery, and Rs 57,000 crore for petroleum. The high cost which the food security bill will impose on the country, therefore, does not stand out in isolation.
But the country can not afford another adverse future audit report by Comptroller and Auditor General like its recent one on the Rs 58,000 crore farm loan waiver scheme. That scheme was doled out at the fag end of UPA-1 government's tenure and CAG in its audit found several cases of mis-appropriations and other issues such as exclusions of genuine loan-affected farmers. No one, therefore, can find it easy to believe that the UPA-2 government will not do the same with the food security ordinance.
If food security is not really achieved and only an erroneous impression of it being achieved is created, it would be a tragedy.