Social impact through public policy making in India – food security ordinance
Isn’t it a surprise for you all that I am writing on a topic that concerns with social impact? Well, although none of the articles till now on tuubol.com have been directly dealing with subjects that could bring in some positive social impact. In the wake of the ongoing discussions in the print, electronic, and social media about the issue of the Indian government bringing in an ordinance for the food security bill, the thought of the reason for which the issue was selectively picked up by the government has been bothering me. After all, the Indian populace is facing countless problems and most of them are related to poverty. The central government has brought in the Food Security Ordinance to implement food security for the poor in the country. If you look from the angle of a social activist or a pro-poor thoughts, you will find no problems in the government bringing in the law using the ordinance route. But, why was that done when there is a functioning parliament raises a multitude of questions.
What is an ordinance:- For all those who are ignorant of what an ordinance is, let me explain that in simple terms. An ordinance is an act of Parliament without bringing the subject for debate among all parties, the ruling parties as well as the opposition parties. An ordinance is brought when the government has some urgency to bring in a law for any purpose. So, an ordinance can also be termed as an act of parliament, where the parliament operated without legal sanction, because all elected members of the parliament were not involved. Source: – Wikipedia
There are so many questions that need to be asked in relation to the food security ordinance the UPA government has brought.
The first question that needs to be asked is that, why was there a need for the central government of India to bring in a food security bill?
Why was the Congress unable to provide the basic necessities to the people of the country even after being at the helm of power in the center for more than 60 years?
Why would the government pick only food security bill to be the first one to be introduced and that too via the ordinance route.
Is the government sure about the number of poor in the country who are actually in the need of such a law?
Why was the ordinance route selected by the government for bringing in this law?
Is the timing of the ordinance appropriate?
Well, if you ask this question to the central government, you will get a standard answer, and that is, the poor of the country cannot afford the basic amount and quantity of food that is necessary for the daily nutrition of a normal human being. Logically, this answer seems to be correct, but, this answer leads to another question.
This is an obvious question even an outsider will ask if he sees the record of parties who have been in power in the center and states since independence. Not only that, they have been in power in most of the states too. It is only recently for the last 25-30 years that most states have started to elect regional parties in the assembly elections. So, can the center give this reason for bringing in the food security ordinance? I don’t think so. They have failed the country and especially the poor with their misplaced policies and making them hope against hope before every election by their slogans of Roti – kapda – Makan (food, clothing and housing), and poverty alleviation etc. They have failed to fulfill most of the promises they have ever made before elections and that is the reason for the current level of poverty in the country.
The nation is grappling with so many other problems that need to be addressed on urgent basis, but why did the UPA government choose the food security bill to be taken on top priority and take the ordinance route to implement it? Well, there is yet another simple answer to this question. They want to keep them poor who are poor now. They do not want to help them earn their own livelihood, but keep them hoping that the government will come and give them food and all other items of daily necessity. This kind of politics is not new to the country. A recent example is Lalu Prasad Yadav. He kept the state of Bihar poor and illiterate and kept on appeasing them by ensuring lawlessness in the state so that the goons could prosper and help him retain power. He remained in power for more than 15 years with this tactic. The Congress is trying to use the same to remain in power in the center.
The number of poor in the country is so large – Ms. Jayalalitha, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, claims that the central government will leave millions of Tamil Nadu people from being benefited from the Public Distribution System by bringing in the Food Security Ordinance.
It looks like she is correct in her assertion. The recently published figures for poverty in the country by the planning commission signal in that direction. The definition of poverty line in the country has been in question even after being revised recently. Poverty line is taken as the basis for implementation of all such poverty alleviation schemes launched by the central government and state governments. So, if the number of poor is reduced by creative definition of the lines itself, then the UPA can hit two birds with the same bullet. They are trying to win over the electorate by bringing in the Food Security Ordinance and also trying to reduce the number of people who will be covered under the scheme by redefining the poverty line. This seems to be a case where they are trying to eat their cake and have it too.
Well, only a congress supporter would ever support the ordinance route taken by the government in this case. This seems to be a case of the Congress trying to gain maximum political leverage out of the food security ordinance by taking the full credit of having brought it in effect. First of all, was there a need of an ordinance? Could the bill have not seen the light of day had it been discussed in the Parliament? Is the bill so faulty that it would have failed the scrutiny of the opposition in the parliament? The way the congress has used the ordinance route for this bill, gives only one indication, they are worried only about the political mileage they can get by using this bill as their plank for the forthcoming Lok Sabha elections. The benefit of the poor is not in the minds of the congress leaders while they passed this ordinance and are now trying to enforce this on the state governments.
The haste that is being shown by the UPA government especially the Congress in bringing in the food security bill raises the question of timing. The UPA is trying to wipe out all the claims of corruption and lack of governance leveled on them by the opposition by appeasing the masses of the voters by showing them the promise of almost free food. Most political parties have raised this question and now it is the term of Mr. Prakash Singh Badal, the Chief Minister of Punjab, one of the most prosperous states of the country to raise this question. He said the food security ordinance is politically motivated and is not going to do any good to the people.
All of the above questions and the answers that one can get from those at the helm of power will never satisfy the middle class of the country. So, has the middle class become so irrelevant that they don’t count while policy is being made and their hard earned money is being spent on schemes that have no future. It is a good thing for the government to be concerned for the poor of the country, but is distributing food for free is the solution? Should they not be enabling the poor to be able to buy their own food? Should they be not controlling the run-away inflation that is making it hard for the people to buy a decent one time meal? The economist Prime Minister seems to have failed in controlling the economy and giving it the direction it requires to enable India to become a super power of the future. And the finance minister has the guts to say that no one can now say that there exists any policy paralysis…