Current Draft Of India's Food Security Bill Excludes Many From Public Food System

India’s National Food Security Bill, “expected to be discussed in Parliament later this year, … holds out hope of addressing some of the nation’s most persistent and pervasive problems,” Ashwin Parulkar, a research scholar at the Centre for Equity Studies, writes in the Wall Street Journal’s “India Real Time” blog. “Unfortunately, in my view, the draft in its current form will be a major let down,” he states and provides some background on the bill. “Lawmakers have drafted this legislation but it appears that the bill will do little to tackle the critical areas of India’s hunger crisis so widely acknowledged by this country’s own policymakers,” he writes.

Parulkar notes the draft “gives 63.5 percent of the population … the right to buy wheat and rice at cheap rates from public grain shops,” carving out “priority” and “general” groups within rural and urban populations. “The problem is that the bill does not mention how the government will identify people in each group,” he writes, adding, “Critics say this would leave many people out of the public food system and to avoid this lawmakers should allow all citizens to buy cheap grains from public shops.” He states, “If Parliament passes a bill that fails to match progress made by the courts on furthering human rights in India and does not use the government’s own findings on the abysmal performance of social programs to check discrimination and corruption currently undermining poor people’s access to food, the law will be meaningless” (10/18).