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India Food Subsidy Plan Bypasses Some Needy Citizens, Does Not Tackle Malnutrition, Chief Minister Says

“India’s multi-billion dollar plan to give cheap grain to 67 percent of its population bypasses some of the needy and does not tackle malnutrition, said Raman Singh, the chief minister of Chhattisgarh, which gives 90 percent of its people low-cost food,” Reuters reports. “With an eye to elections which are due by May 2014, the Congress-led government last month sidestepped parliament by launching its $22 billion food subsidy plan with an ordinance, which brings it into law immediately,” the news service notes, adding, “Singh, a member of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), told Reuters the ordinance should have broadened the range of beneficiaries and [included distribution of] protein-based foods as well as rice and wheat.” According to Reuters, Singh said, “We give iodized salt, pulses and chick pea. We demand the same for the National Food Security Ordinance.”

“The National Food Security Ordinance aims to give five kg (11 lb) of cheap rice and wheat every month to 800 million people, more than doubling the reach of the existing subsidized food system,” according to Reuters. “Despite being the world’s second-biggest producer of rice and wheat and sitting on huge mountains of grains, India is home to a quarter of the world’s hungry poor and every day some 3,000 children die of illness related to malnutrition,” the news service notes. “A government source involved in food decisionmaking said that rice and wheat were staples for the poor and the government was taking care of those needs,” Reuters writes, adding, “Singh said his state government’s investment in irrigation, free electricity to farmers, interest-free farm loans and better seeds have helped Chhattisgarh raise rice production to 7.1 million tons from 1.7 million tons in 2005/06” (Winterbottom/Bhardwaj, 8/2).

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