Ruing that the Food Security Bill was promulgated as an ordinance and not a parliamentary bill, Nobel laureate economist Amartya Sen Monday stressed that the provision needs to be viewed in the context of curtailing expenses on health and education.
“What I do have a view on is to compare it with cutting other things like education and healthcare, and so on, and not talking about such things like subsidised electricity which may absorb two percent of the GDP. One-third of Indians do not have power connection anyway,” Sen said an event at the Presidency University here.
“I believe it comes through an ordinance, not even as a parliamentary bill, which in some way is a pity. But the issue to look at is how it is financed and what its context is,” said Sen.
President Pranab Mukherjee recently promulgated the national food security ordinance, which aims to provide subsidised food grain to around 67 percent of India’s 1.2 billion people.
The bill envisages providing five kg foodgrain at rates ranging between Re.1-Rs.3 per kg.
Around 800 million people would thus get the subsidised foodgrain at an initial cost of around Rs.1.3 lakh crore to the government.
Sen pointed out that the issue of food security is a multi-dimensional matter and a “number of considerations” have to be taken into account.
He highlighted the issue of technical expertise and dismissed the view that the bill can be questioned on the grounds of freedom to choose foodgrains.
“Food security gives some food when the alternative will be no food. There are many different ways in which the nutritional balance in India could be achieved. It is not an issue of freedom. There is also an issue of technical expertise,” he explained.
Referring to the subsidy on diesel, Sen said India is only one of a few countries that subsidise fossil fuel.