how food security feeds on hunger

sainath says:
The only PDS that will work is a universal one. It is only in those States that have the closest thing to a universal system — Kerala and Tamil Nadu — where the PDS has functioned best.
food security is a goal. a universal pds is an approach. please note: an approach. calling it the only approach that will work is like saying power flows through the barrel of a gun. that reflects an autocratic vision, the approach of those who have always wielded power and guns through history. the approach of those who always knew better, as compared with the mass of lesser humanity who could only wield labour and sweat.

i'm all for a universal pds if it improves even by 5% the access of the labouring masses to food. but will it? a few questions that i asked myself, and the answers i could come up with:

* does universalizing the pds decrease food insecurity?
a. the pds in punjab is barely patronized and yet the 'level of food insecurity' is the same as in kerala, which has a universal system.
* is it the level of foodgrains production which determines the level of food insecurity?
a. punjab produces 6-8 times more wheat and rice than its 2.4 crore population (2001) needs, but kerala produces only 30% as much rice as it needs. but both states suffer from the same levels of food insecurity.
* is it the amount of subsidy per unit (of rations) that helps?
a. tamil nadu is supplying rice at rs.1 to the poor, whereas kerala doesn't have any such schemes. the level of food insecurity in tamil nadu is higher than in kerala.
* do per capita incomes determine the levels of food insecurity in different states?
a. maharashtra has a better per capita income than tamil nadu but its 'level of food insecurity' is higher. and both those states have better per capita incomes than kerala which of course has a lower level of food insecurity.
* so what helps food security?
a. hard to say. you could even say, fewer hindus in the state's population would help, and you would be right. punjab, jammu & kashmir and kerala, which have large non-hindu populations have the best levels of food security. the absence of hindus, or fewer hindus, helps those states create more egalitarian social environments, perhaps?
* and?
a. fewer castes would also help, i think. improves social cohesion. andhra pradesh, karnataka and maharashtra etc have larger number of castes than punjab, kerala or jammu & kashmir.
* tamil nadu also has a large number of castes but it's better than a.p., karnataka in food security. why?

..and so on. a writer who advocates 'the only' approaches is the closest thing to a suicide bomber in the intellectual world, in my view. or the george bush of the world of media: you're either with him, or against him. or, you're either okay with his approach, or against food security. food security depends on many factors, and i'm not even sure food security is the only approach to solving hunger. because the issue is hunger and starvation, and not food security. not to those who are hungry.

food security is a goal for those who nurse nationalist ideals: those who subscribe to a certain set of cultural values and for whom the promotion of those values means a great deal. a great deal more than the issue of hunger itself. but it means nothing to an individual whose family is hungry. why should his need serve someone else's goal?


Kiran said...

Though you made the point in jest .. I agree with the logic that fewer the hindus better the food security.

kuffir said...


it was only partly made in jest:)

Venkat said...

After the electoral defeat of CPM in 1999, card holders like Sainath started several 'peoples' movements simultaneously to invent issues to beat the NDA government with.
In the process, Sainath got Magsasay and Sonia got UPA government.
They created the monster called NREGA and started sinking upto 100,000 crores a year. In its name, they screwed the tax payers with 12% service tax. UPA gets votes, Sainath becomes a hero and people get screwed.
The havoc NREGA is creating in farming sector is known only to farmers. MDOs are pressurised to spend the money and they are dragging all agricultural labor to perform silly labor work like removing weeds from tank beds. They go in hordes of 100 to 150 including small children, work for a couple of hours and collect Rs 100 as wages.
If the funds are not spent in summer, the program extends even into the monsoon season.
When farmers engage the same labor, they are demanding the 100 rupees plus wages for doing 'real' labor.
Labor wages have shot up by 100% after NREGA came. All this will add up to costs of food in the years to come.
There is tremendous compulsion on farmers to mechanise farming operations but the fractured size of farms makes it uneconomical.
Whose baap ka money is it that they are distributing in NREGA?

Karnati Veeranna said...

@Venkat, thanks for reminding the just price of labour. I guess you will never like to be paid with the same scale

Venkat said...

I am not god to decide the just price for labor. I am only highlighting what government intervention does to the market. I would like to see capital formation and productivity increased to such a level that every farm laborer rides to his work on a motorcycle or car.
Presently, government interference in the agriculture is so complete that market has become irrelevant.
You grow paddy at these labor etc input costs and government decides support price, FCI purchase price, export of paddy is banned, trading across states and even districts is banned. What does the farmer make? Only loss.
City dwellers cry hoarse when rice prices increase and so the paddy price is kept low. It is from the tax money of these city dwellers only that NREGA is financed. And if things go on like this, paddy production will come down like it did in Kerala and then you import from other states which will make it more expensive.
Why don't you see that NREGA is simply throwing money at the labor, not getting any work done - all for their votes. How long can you afford to throw money like this?

I would like Kufr to react, if he/she has time.

Karnati Veeranna said...

Labor living at the expense of tax money of city dwellers! excellent

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