It looks like Sonia Gandhi is following in the foot steps of late Dr Rajashekar Reddy (YSR), ex-CM of AP. YSR became Bhaghiradhudu by taking up some of the most expensive and corrupt water projects, Sonia Gandhi is trying to become Annapoorna by this most costly welfare program India has ever seen.
While the idea of providing food for the less fortunate is a good idea in itself, there are some serious problems with the Food Security Bill. Top of the list is, there is no provision in this bill to address the food problem in long term. Wise people said that, it is more helpful to teach hungry how to fish, than provide the fish. This bill doesn’t have such a provision, may be because the Congress party likes to have people dependent on the government for basic needs.
Second problem I see is the amount of corruption that is possible with this bill. There are many provisions that are hard to implement or monitor in the current state. For example, there is a program to counsel moms on how to breast feed (“Support for practicing exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months through assistance at birth, skilled breastfeeding counseling, and related assistance consistent with the provisions of the Infant Milk Substitutes, Feeding Bottles and Infant Foods”). And there is a program to supply feeding bottles. Now we can imagine how many moms will take this counseling, and how many of these feeding bottles make their way into the black market.
Third concern I have is the financial burden. At the current estimate, the cost of this program is expected to be 6,00,000 crores in next 5 years. With the several comparisons we have seen with the 2 lakh crores loss from 2G scam, this program is thrice as big. Of course the food-for-poor is important, but let’s also understand that this is how much less money the government will have on the healthcare, education, and more importantly, drinking water and basic infra structure like toilet facilities in rural areas. A lot of the 6,00,000 crores will be in the discretion of the corrupt politicians. For example, the Anganwadis and the fair price shops will be given to the relatives of the ruling party politicians, and sold for corruption, just like they did it with the current public distribution system.
Fourth concern is that the government is ready to make the same mistakes without address the problems in the current mega programs. For example, based on the numerous complaints that nutritious food is not being provided in the afternoon meal program in the schools, we can only imagine how the “freshly” cooked meals is going to be at such a large scale in so many Anganwadis. Other example is 200 day work guarantee program under the Food Security bill. We have already seen a tremendous misuse of the work guarantee program in NERGA. The bill also does not talk about the theft that goes on in our current public distribution system, so how will it address in the new system, with lot of money at stake? This program also talks about the identify cards for the potential beneficiaries. We have seen how well the aadhar project was handled.
I always thought the government as the system that should provide a safe level-ground for people to create opportunities and make their living. Of course we should take care of the poor people not just to keep the harmony, but for the sake of the humanity. Some reports say that close to 80% of the subsidized food is stolen*, the food security program is nothing but a clay water pot full of holes.