[Reader-list] Struggle for Food Security

A. Mani a.mani.cms at gmail.com
Tue Jul 10 07:34:01 IST 2012

Source: http://ganashakti.com/comments/comments-single-view/article/importance-of-the-struggle-for-food-security.html

Importance of the Struggle for Food Security

Prakash Karat

The Left parties are conducting  a joint campaign and movement on the
issue of food security throughout the country in July-August. This
movement is to demand a universal public distribution system to ensure
food security for all citizens.

The demand for a food security law which will ensure the right to food
for all people has become all the more urgent and necessary as there
is no let-up in the price rise of food items and food inflation rate
hovers around  10 per cent.  India has the largest number of
malnourished and undernourished people in the world.

One would have thought that in such a grim situation, the UPA
government would urgently take up the Food Security Bill pending
before Parliament. But it has become evident that the government has
other priorities.

The worsening economic situation has led to strident calls for the
implementation of  more neo-liberal measures.  The economic slowdown
is being attributed to the UPA-II government’s failure to push through
neo-liberal reforms.  The economic advisors and the corporate media
see the present impasse as the most opportune to prod the Manmohan
Singh government into  undertaking the very measures which have led to
the  crisis in the first place.  The chorus of demands are coming in
thick  and fast. Decontrol diesel pricing; opening up multi-brand
retail trade to FDI; stop harassing foreign investors and speculators
with tax avoidance regulations; step up the disinvestment  of shares
in the public sector enterprises and so on.

That the UPA government is heeding to these demands  has become
evident  in the last few days.  The Prime Minister has taken charge of
the finance portfolio after the exit of Pranab Mukherjee on his
becoming the candidate for the post of President. Immediately after
assuming charge of the Finance Ministry, the Prime Minister met the
officials of the Ministry  and told them: “We need to reverse the
climate of pessimism.  Revive the animal spirits in the country’s
economy; there are problems on the tax front which need to be
addressed.”  The “animal spirits” is a refrain of the Prime Minister
whenever he wishes to give a fresh thrust to free market enterprise.

The advent of the Prime Minister to the Finance Ministry has led to
two immediate steps being taken.  The first is a  re-look at the
retrospective tax amendment passed in the Finance Bill during the last
budget.  This amendment enables the  revival of the demand for capital
gains tax on Vodafone to the amount of Rs. 13,000 crores.   The
amendment was cited as one of the main reasons for  scaring off
foreign investors and FII flows. Both C. Rangarajan, the head of the
Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council and Montek Singh Ahluwalia,
Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission have decried this step.
Though this has been passed by Parliament, Ahluwalia had declared that
it should be  used in the rarest of occasions.

The second  step is the review of the General Anti-Avoidance Rules
(GAAR).  These are rules meant to check avoidance of tax on funds
flowing  into India utilizing tax havens.  This could have been used
to check tax evasion by those utilizing the Mauritius route. Due to
strong opposition of the financial lobbies, the Finance Minister had
announced that its implementation would be postponed by a year.  Now
the effort is to scuttle it altogether.  At the efforts of the Prime
Minister and his economic advisors is to meet the demands of finance
capital and speculators.  The revival  of investor sentiment and
“animal spirits” is designed to appease these interests. For the rest,
the talk of curbing the fiscal deficit and the runaway expenditure
means austerity measures for the people.  The demand to urgently cut
subsidies on fuel and fertilizers is a corollary of this.

With such an outlook to revive the economy, measures such as the Food
Security law are seen  as populist and wasteful.  The Food Security
legislation was expected to be passed in the monsoon  session of
Parliament. But there are no signs of this happening.  The Standing
Committee of Parliament looking into the legislation has not
completed its work yet. The draft Bill perpetuates the targeting of
people into priority (BPL) and general (APL).  This will automatically
exclude 54 per cent of the families in rural areas and 72 per cent in
the urban areas.  The Below Poverty Line cardholders will have to pay
Rs. 3 per kg of rice when eight states are providing rice at Rs. 1 or
2 per kg for those in the BPL list.

The government is eager to please the foreign speculators and finance
capital by further  liberalizing their entry and ensuring that their
profits are not taxed while people of India are to suffer from hunger
and malnutrition because the government cannot increase the food
subsidy to provide for a public distribution system for all.  It is in
this context that the Left parties movement for food security assumes
importance. In the weeks to come, lakhs of people are going to be
mobilised on the four demands of the campaign which are as follows:

•        No BPL or APL, we demand a universal public distribution system
•        35 kg of foodgrains at not more than Rs. 2 per kg every month
for each family
•        Scrap the Planning Commission’s bogus poverty estimates as
the basis for welfare rights
•        Implement the Swaminathan Commission recommendations for a
fair price and profit margin for farmers.

This movement will culminate in a five-day dharna from July 30 to
August 3, 2012 at New Delhi during the monsoon session of Parliament.
All those who have concern for the welfare of the people and who
consider the right to food should be a fundamental right for all
citizens should  extend their full support to this movement.



A. Mani

A. Mani

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