Sunday, May 02, 2010
In India, ascertaining the number of BPL families is vital. Vital, because more than half of the Government schemes specifically target the BPL families. So, the identification of these BPL families becomes crucial so as to determine the number of beneficiaries. Presently, there are four estimates as to the number of BPL families in India. They are:
- Planning Commission Report: 27.5%
- Suresh Tendulkar Committee Report: 37.2%
- N.C Saxena Committee Report: 50%
- Arjun Sengupta Committee Report: 77%
The question is, which one to go with? Can we digest this- a staggering 77% of India's population lives below the poverty line? If it is true, we'll become even worse that the Sub-Sahara Africa.
Media reports however say that the figure quoted by the Suresh Tendulkar Committee is closest to the actual figures. The Planning Commission is also slated to adopt these figures for the 11th Five Year Plan. The thing that makes the Tendulkar Committee report different, and more acceptable is the fact that it relies on the private consumer household expenditure to determine the cut-off for BPL, rather than calorie intake. Private consumer expenditure incorporates education, health and transportation, which have assumed much equal importance as food. Moreover, the calorie intake norm varies from place to place and also depends on consumption habits which makes it impossible to have a uniform calorie intake norm for the entire country.
Access to food and proper distribution of food are the main issues plaguing the goal of food security. People are forced to sleep hungry as they do not have access to food or the means to buy it. Over here, poverty becomes directly related to hunger. The lack of purchasing power and non-availability of work intensify the problem of food insecurity. The Public Distribution System (PDS) ensures distribution of food to the needy. But, the realities of the functioning of PDS are hidden to none. First of all, the country does not have a reliable database of the number of BPL (Below Poverty Line) families. Furthermore, the available resources prove to be inadequate to meet the demands of the already identified BPL families. And the reasons are, well, corruption, red tapism, etc.
The Parliament should, for a change, enact and not just continue with adjournments. We must look up to the drafters of our Constitution, and acknowledge their legacy. Fellow Indians, the need of the hour is a complete overhaul. And, it will be only possible if all of us join hands to ensure food for the teeming millions of our country. When millions of our brothers and sisters sleep hungry, can we take pride in 'India Shining' or 'Incredible India'?
The general view is that sufficient production of food ensures food security. Unfortunately, the view is false. Food Security is infact, a function of production, access and distribution of food. Mere production does not ensure food security. There needs to be access to food, and proper distribution so as to achieve it.
Take the case of India for that matter. In 2001, when several parts of Rajasthan was dying with hunger, the country had amassed the most massive stocks of food-grain. Yet, the people were dying of hunger. It was then that PUCL, Rajasthan filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court of India to address the issue. This case, popularly known as the FOOD SECURITY CASE [PUCL v. Union of India, Writ Petition (Civil) No. 196 of 2001] has the potential to alter the food security scene in India. Unfortunately, the case has not been decided yet.