#India- Why the Food Security Bill is neither populist nor unaffordable


 
Cultivatring Food Justice

Cultivatring Food Justice

 
The official poverty threshold is low. Many people above the threshold are also poor and look just like the people below the threshold. As a result, there is no reliable way in which subsidies can be targeted only to the people below the official threshold.
 
 
By Ashok Kotwal, HT
 
 
 
Criticism of the National Food Security Bill (NFSB) has led to the government dropping the idea of issuing an Ordinance and, instead, saying it would try to get the Bill passed in a special session of Parliament.
 
But doubts persist over the very concept of the Bill. Is it not extravagant to subsidise food for such a large part of the population when the poor constitute only 30 per cent of the population? Can a poor country afford such spending? Isn’t the Food Bill just corruption by another name? Wouldn’t the Bill lead to a virtual takeover of the grain trade by the central government? As a rising tide lifts all boats, should we not invest in growth rather than spend on consumption? These are all valid questions and we will attempt to answer them.
 
In a nutshell, we think the Bill is neither populist nor unaffordable. Some of the anxiety over the cost, corruption and the government’s ever-increasing role in the grain market stems from the assumption that PDS will remain forever the main vehicle of delivering the food subsidy. But if the government develops the necessary infrastructure — e.g., UID-linked bank accounts — states will be encouraged to switch to cash transfers. The extra costs of government storage and distribution will then be saved and the problems caused by the distortion of the grain trade will be mitigated. Many worries that arise from the identification of the food Bill with the PDS will disappear.
 
The Right to Food campaign is right to stress the need for a food subsidy with near-universal coverage but is wrong in its visceral opposition to cash transfers. The result is a food Bill written wholly in terms of an expansion of the PDS. Suggestions for reforms such as cash transfers and the use of biometric ID have been shunted to an obscure chapter despite the fact that the Delhi government has already opted for delivering the food subsidy through cash transfers.
 
Anyone who has had a cursory look at the food Bill tends to assume it is just expanding the present PDS and, thus, worsening existing problems of leakage, corruption and high costs of storage and distribution. This makes people antagonistic toward the idea of the food Bill. The opposition of the Right to Food campaign to even experiment with cash transfers has harmed the poor by making people sympathetic to the critics of the food Bill.
 
Cash transfers are often opposed on the grounds of paternalism. “If we give cash to the poor, they might blow it on frivolous things. If we give them food, they will be better nourished.” This can work as an argument for midday meals but not as a justification for PDS, which is nothing but an income transfer: the effect of the subsidy is that households save the money that would have otherwise been used to buy food at market prices.
 
Why do we need such an income transfer? Because about 90 per cent of India’s labour force makes a living in the informal sector. For inclusive growth, we need to invest in education and skills and remove constraints to the absorption of labour by the formal sector. But we also need to improve productivity in the informal sector, which depends on human capital and access to credit. Financial aid that gives the poor some flexibility in managing their affairs helps improve the productivity of their time. What looks like consumption also works as investment.
 
But if “the poor” are only the bottom third or so, why offer food subsidy to the bottom two-thirds of India? We often talk about the poor as if it is a well-defined group, but that is hardly the case. The official poverty threshold is low. Many people above the threshold are also poor and look just like the people below the threshold. As a result, there is no reliable way in which subsidies can be targeted only to the people below the official threshold.
 
Finally, there is the issue of costs. Official projections are that it would cost close to 1.5 per cent of GDP. But even in the most pessimistic scenario, our GDP is expected to grow at 5 per cent per annum in the near future. If we think of the fact that the Bill will cost less than one-third of the growth in the national income next year, it does not seem that unaffordable, especially given its value to the millions who will receive it.
 
(The writer is professor of economics, University of British Columbia. Co-authored with Milind Murugkar, a food policy analyst based in Nasik, and Bharat Ramaswami, professor of economics at the Indian Statistical Institute, Delhi)

 

#India – Cash transfers are bad for food security


MADHAVI CHERIAN, The Hindu 

https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/h/1prxq6bf9dglx/?view=att&th=13e9475df71ac607&attid=0.1&disp=emb&realattid=c8b88aea509adc8a_0.2&zw&atsh=1″ width=”636″ height=”422″ />
SILO TO BAG: The government’s decision to promote cash transfers in the National Food Security Bill ignores crucial lessons from India’s past at a time when it needs to intervene on both the demand and supply sides to ensure food security for every citizen. Photo: M. Govarthan

The stabilising effect of the Public Distribution System on prices will be lost as beneficiary households turn to the market for their needs

India’s hard won gains in achieving food security are in danger of being undermined by a clause in the National Food Security Bill that encourages States to adopt cash transfers in lieu of food entitlements under the Public Distribution System (PDS). Supporting this view, a recent report by the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) concluded that the provision of food subsidies in the form of cash would save the government crores of rupees. Additionally, cash transfers will supposedly eliminate middlemen such as dealers and transporters, ensuring that the subsidy reaches intended beneficiaries.

Cash transfers are a solution only if we view the PDS in isolation, rather than as part of a larger food policy. India’s food policy begins with the procurement of rice and wheat and price support operations by the Food Corporation of India (FCI) and the CACP. Each State is entitled to purchase a certain amount of food grains from the FCI at subsidised prices for distribution through its Fair Price (Ration) Shops. It is this distribution end that constitutes the PDS, and what the cash transfers would replace.

Besides not taking into account the devaluing effect of inflation or the role of intrahousehold dynamics when it comes to cash transfers, its supporters do not specify what would happen to the agricultural commodities that are procured by the FCI. As the policy exists today, the government holds millions of tons of rice and wheat, well above the buffer norms required by law. To reduce its stocks, the government has preferred open market operations (to bulk consumers) and export to distribution through the PDS.

Experiments with decontrol

Using those actions as an indicator of the government’s policy orientation, cash transfers arguably are a gateway to greater deregulation of the food market. Relying on cash transfers alone would mean that the beneficiary households would have to turn to the market to meet all their food needs. More importantly, the stabilising effect that the PDS has on consumption and prices would be lost. Cash transfers thus are only a partial substitute to the PDS.

To understand the importance of a broad food policy, we only have to look at India’s brief experiments with decontrol. The government’s policy reaction to the Bengal famine of 1943, which led to the death of 1.5 million people, provides us with a primer of what not to do in a famine situation. At first, there was a complete laissez-faire policy towards food grain trade, which led to hoarding by traders, farmers and consumers. Subsequently, the provincial governments introduced a policy of procurement and distribution of food grains, which failed miserably as they did not have the requisite infrastructure to implement the policy. For example, grains were rotting in Calcutta, the centre of distribution in the eastern region, as the government had not made arrangements to handle incoming stocks. To avoid what was called a “tragedy in unpreparedness,” the government took steps towards setting up a comprehensive food administration, including procurement by the government, the building of buffer stocks and the introduction of rationing.

However, soon after Independence, India abandoned these policies on the insistence of Gandhiji, who by then had started chanting the following prayer, “Controls give rise to fraud, suppression of truth, intensification of the black market and to artificial scarcity. Above all, it (they) unmans the people and deprives them of initiative; it undoes the teaching of self help, they have been learning for generations, makes them spoon-fed.” Shortly thereafter, droughts and floods led to insufficient production, food shortages and price rise. Controls in the form of rationing, price control and distribution had to be reintroduced in March 1949 to deal with the adverse food situation.

The next phase of free markets in food was under the Food Minister, Rafi Ahmed Kidwai, beginning 1952. Improved food grains production in 1953 and 1954 led to declining prices and a temporary break from chronic shortages. Government procurement of food grains was stopped and restrictions on the movement of grains were removed. Paradoxically, even as farmers faced deflationary conditions, there were shortages and price rise in various parts of the country. The instability in prices, combined with adverse weather in the autumn of 1955, had a dampening effect on production.

In 1957, the Ashok Mehta-led Food Grains Enquiry Committee concluded that an expanded money supply, growing industrialisation and urbanisation and increased investment led to enhanced purchasing power. On the other hand, hoarding by traders, producers and consumers as well as speculative activities in anticipation of public investment by the government led to a rise in prices. Additionally, it found that prices were allowed to fall too low in 1955 and that there was no coordinated policy of combating inflation and shortages that began in 1956.

Back to controls

The government had to reintroduce controls and carry-out price support operations to curb the fall in prices. It opened an additional 10,000 ration shops between October 1956 and September 1957, and released its stocks to combat price rise. This episode underscored the need for the government to intervene in the market to influence prices and output. The Food Grains Enquiry Committee recommended the setting up of institutions like the FCI and the CACP for this purpose. The government’s decision to promote cash transfers in the National Food Security Bill presented in the recently concluded session of Parliament ignores these lessons from India’s past.

Since the 1950s, India has made major strides in agricultural production as evidenced by the large government-held stocks of wheat and rice. However, problems of inadequate nutrition, starvation and double digit food price inflation remain. Strengthening of the PDS, as seen in Chhattisgarh and Tamil Nadu, would serve the purpose of ensuring food security for the nation through stabilising prices, production and consumption. As seen in the past, government withdrawal from the food sector can lead to a decline in production and an increase in hoarding and speculative activity. Unlike the PDS, cash transfers cannot counter the resultant shortages and price rise. In a growing economy like India with constantly increasing demand, the government needs to intervene on both the demand and supply sides to ensure food security for all its citizens.

(Madhavi Cherian is a PhD scholar at the Department of Sociology, New York University.)

 

#India – Counting the costs of direct cash transfers


Madan Sabnavis  April 22, 2013  BS
The government urgently needs to consider 5 ‘Ss’ before it launches itself into this commitment
As a rule, the government likes creating new structures without fully understanding their implications and then disbanding them once criticism inundates the newspaper columns. A lot of time and money is invested in creating these structures and, often, these costs could be higher than the cost they are trying to lower to begin with. The direct cash transfer (DCT) scheme runs a similar risk, since our enthusiasm levels are currently high, and we could go off the track unless certain preconditions are addressed.
It is generally felt that DCTs are a more efficient system than, say, physical subsidies. This does hold when conditions are ideal and back-end structures are in place. Otherwise, there could be contradictions that will make the DCT scheme unsuccessful.
DCTs come into play for two kinds of transfers. The first is where a new structure is created for transferring cash-for-cash transactions. This holds for, say, salaries, pensions and scholarships and so on. The existing scheme has various departments sending cheques to the recipients, who, in turn, deposit them in their own accounts. The second pertains to cash-for-kind transfers. Here, instead of providing the good to the household, a cash transfer of an equivalent amount takes place and can be used to buy the product.
The concept of DCT is based on the much-publicised Aadhaar project where a unique identity (UID) has been provided to people. Since every UID has an account linked to the person, such a transaction would be automatic provided the disbursing authority is linked with the banking systems. Given the volumes involved, this would be a logistical challenge. The advantage for cash-for-cash transactions is efficiency and reduction of leakages provided the identification process is robust. Prima facie, there is nothing amiss here.
When it comes to cash-for-kind transactions, the situation is different because we have to give up the existing structures since substitution takes place. There are essentially five “Ss” that have to be tackled before bringing about any change in the transfer system.
The first is “structures”. We have an elaborate procurement system for food grain that is motivated by, one, procurement for distribution and, two, creation of a buffer. The procurement policy is an open-ended one where farmers can sell a fair average quality to the Food Corporation of India (FCI) at a predetermined price. The idea here is to protect the farmer’s income. Have we thought of what will happen to this policy or FCI (an institution set up for this purpose) when we provide cash transfers, and FCI will then have to address only the issue of buffer stocks?
Second, “systems” have been created for distribution – the public distribution system (PDS). If we have a “conditional cash transfer” in which money given has to be used to buy grain from fair price shops, then the status quo would be preserved – along with the current inefficiencies. However, if it is not a conditional transfer system, then new issues emerge. There are around 500,000 fair price shops across the country that on an average employ one million workers. By introducing cash transfers and disbanding PDS, there will be an issue of unemployment, since it will be hard for these people to reinvent their stores that are mostly located in rural areas. Today, when there is opposition to foreign direct investment in retail, we are talking of the local kirana shops. There will be a lot of noise when we think of displacing these one million workers. Do we have a solution here?
Third, “selection” is an important consideration for a successful DCT scheme. The problem with PDS, besides the ubiquitous leakages, is adverse selection. A lot of people who are not poor take in these entitlements. This becomes acute as we move to kerosene and liquefied petroleum gas. The new scheme on UID is no different from the existing policy of self-declaration; since no proof of income is asked for it runs the risk of adverse selection. In fact, there are a large number of people holding on to the coloured ration cards and not drawing rations. In the new dispensation of the scheme, this could mean free money for them. Do we have a way of screening households or else will we be back to also helping those who do not require assistance?
Fourth, the government is talking aggressively of food “security” with an ambitious target of covering two-thirds of the population. Clearly, there is a major contradiction here. If we are to provide cash transfers, then how do we reach the food grain to the needy, which requires PDS?
Fifth, there has been debate on the food “subsidy” burden. The subsidy is the difference between the economic cost and the issue price for wheat and rice. The economic cost varies between Rs 17 and Rs 24 a kg, and the issue price is around Rs 5 to Rs 8 a kg. This is when the food grain is sold at a fixed price. Now, once the people are paid cash, they have to buy food grain on their own from the market. Based on government data, the price of wheat and rice varies from Rs 15 to Rs 35 a kg in different parts of the country. Two practical problems arise here. The cash to be paid in lieu of subsidy will be substantially higher than the present subsidy amount. Second, with inflation being variable, fixing the prices and, hence, subsidy level across states will be difficult, and one can see a lot of politics coming in the way of arguing for higher levels of allocations.
To make the DCT scheme effective, we need to fix these five “Ss” first or else we would be running conflicting parallel systems. We also need to evaluate the exact benefits of the cash-for-cash transfers before embarking on the more onerous cash-for-kind transfers. Besides, the cash-for-cash transfers alter the mode of payments without addressing the issue of selection. It is, therefore, advisable that we move one step at a time and not get carried away.
The author is Chief Economist, CARE ratings. These views are personal

 

 

#India – Food Security Bill is affordable


REETIKA KHERA, The Hindu
The subsidies meant for the poor are always under attack, while the rest are able to retain their privileges.
The additional allocation in grain and money terms will neither distort the grain market nor place a burden on the fisc.
Many recent commentators have portrayed the National Food Security Bill (NFSB) as an “unbearable burden” on the exchequer. The facts, however, do no substantiate the claim.
The NFSB has been trashed from time to time in the English dailies. For instance, Business Line (March 21, 2013) published an article titled “Food Security Bill will torpedo Budget”.
Another national daily claims that the Bill has a “fundamental flaw” that places “an unbearable burden” and “distorts agriculture” (Indian Express, March 19, 2013). Quite often, the claims are partly due to a misconception that the government is making new financial and grain commitments under the NFSB.
In fact, the NFSB does little more than turning into legal entitlements pre-existing food security schemes such as the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Scheme, Mid-Day Meal (MDM) Scheme, Public Distribution System (PDS) and maternity entitlements.
UNJUSTIFIED FEARS
Some commentators have said that it is precisely the legal commitment that will lead to problems in the future — for example, the fear of the emergence of a government monopoly in the grain market. This fear is not borne out by the facts.
Under the PDS, ICDS and MDM, the government currently allocates about 58 million tonnes of grain. To meet this commitment, the government currently procures about 30 per cent of grain. The NFSB commits 62 million tonnes, i.e., an additional 4 million tonnes.
The Budget of 2013-14 allocates Rs. 31,000 crore for two children’s food schemes — school meals and the ICDS which reaches children under six. The Budget allocation for the food subsidy in 2013-14 is Rs 90,000 crore.
According to our estimates, the food subsidy will increase from Rs 80,000 crore (in 2012-13) to Rs 1,11,221 crore, under the NFSB.
Thus, the NFSB implies an increase of just over Rs 30,000 crores in financial terms and 4 million tonnes in real (grain) terms.
Can India afford this? Speaking at a panel discussion at IIT Delhi in February, Deputy Chairperson of the Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, said “it would be dishonest” to say that we cannot afford the Food Bill, and that the subsidies that we need to target are those enjoyed by the middle classes (e.g., fuel).
Speaking at the same discussion, Amartya Sen made a pertinent point — that the reason why it is more difficult to reduce subsidies enjoyed by the middle classes (fuels such as LPG, petrol and diesel) is that the beneficiaries of those are more vocal than the rural poor or children under six who benefit from the food subsidies.
DOUBLE STANDARDS
This point is well illustrated by the events following last year’s Budget. The Budget 2012-13 announced a 1 per cent excise duty on unbranded jewellery and doubled custom duty on gold to 4 per cent. Gold is the country’s second biggest import, after crude oil. This burden on the current account deficit was an important reason for doubling the customs duty.
Following this, the All India Gems and Jewellery Trade Federation and others initiated a strike which went on for 21 days. They argued that the industry, including the “large” number of people it employs, and buyers of gold, would suffer. A massive media campaign was launched, following which the Finance Minister withdrew the excise duty.
According to the revenue foregone statement presented along with the Budget 2013-14, the revenue foregone from the gold and diamond industry for the previous financial year was Rs. 65,000 crore.
Such tax breaks are often justified on the grounds of the employment potential of the gems and jewellery industry. According to Invest India, a website of the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, “The sector provides employment to around 1.8 million people. In the next five years, the sector is expected to create additional employment for around 1.1 million people.”
According to the National Sample Survey Organisation, 2009-10, the size of the Indian workforce is between 430-471 million persons. If the gems and jewellery industry employs 3 million people as per the Ministry’s target, this would be 0.7 per cent of the workforce.
An industry that employs less than one per cent of the Indian workforce is currently enjoying tax benefits amounting to Rs 65,000 crore (nearly 20 per cent of all revenue foregone). The Food Bill will benefit 67 per cent of the population at an additional cost of Rs 30,000 crore, yet it is said that it will “torpedo” the Budget.
NOT ENOUGH
If anything, the NFSB does not go far enough. The NFSB tabled in Parliament in December 2011 included special provisions for the destitute and other vulnerable groups (e.g., community kitchens and social security pensions).
These have been discarded in the version cleared by Cabinet on March 19, 2013. In many rural areas, the Block is already too far to go to complain, yet for violations of rights under the NFSB, grievance redressal only begins at the District level.
Viewed in this comparative perspective (for example, it is approximately 1 per cent of the GDP), few can question the affordability or desirability of the NFSB. In absolute terms it is not a small amount. One might argue whether such expenditure is worth it, given the “fact” that the programmes in its ambit, for example, the PDS, are “dysfunctional” (Indian Express, March 19, 2013).
However, recent data from the National Sample Survey of 2004-05 and 2009-10 suggest that while the functioning of the PDS is far from perfect, we do need to update our “facts”. In joint research with Jean Drèze, we show that the implicit subsidy from the PDS eliminates 18 per cent (14 per cent) of the “poverty gap” — or the difference between the poverty line level of income and the median income (or monthly per capita consumption expenditure) of poor households — among poor rural (urban) households.
Again, there are marked inter-State contrasts — in Tamil Nadu the corresponding figure is 60 per cent and in Chhattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh it is nearly 40 per cent.
The real question then is not whether India can afford to have a right to food but as the Food Minister said in a recent interview, “Can we afford not to?”
(The author teaches economics at IIT, Delhi.)

 

#India – All in the Name of the Poor #UID #Aadhaar


 

Vol – XLVIII No. 13, March 30, 2013 , Editorial

Who will be the real beneficiaries of the Direct Benefit Transfer scheme?

Why is there little or practically no information in the 2013-14 budget on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister P Chidambaram’s pet scheme to bring about direct cash transfer payments to eventually replace price subsidies for food, fuel and fertiliser products? Who are going to be the real beneficiaries of the direct cash transfers via Aadhaar-linked bank accounts using the unique identification (UID) platform?

Food will not immediately be replaced by direct cash transfers, but the ultimate objective is to do so, especially with the impending passage of the National Food Security Bill. The union cabinet has approved the draft legislation which is expected to be introduced in the current session of Parliament. An election promise of 2009, the bill has had few supporters in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government. If it is now being pushed through it is surely on account of electoral considerations with an eye to the next Lok Sabha elections. But the food subsidy budgeted for 2013-14 is only Rs 90,000 crore (compared to the revised figure of Rs 85,000 crore in the current financial year), though the finance minister has said he will provide Rs 10,000 crore more. This will still be grossly inadequate for any food security programme. The fertiliser subsidy, on its part, has actually come down quite significantly, from the actual figure of Rs 70,013 crore in 2011-12 to the budgeted Rs 65,971 crore in 2013-14. The revised petroleum subsidy was Rs 96,880 crore in 2012-13 (revised estimates) and has been put at a mere Rs 65,000 crore next year. Should we not see all these figures in the light of what is on the anvil?

For political reasons, the government has been promoting the direct cash transfer scheme as an anti-corruption measure. But the real objective of the government is, of course, that it sees this as the way to reduce the “major subsidies” bill. On food, for example, given food inflation at more than 10% per annum, if the government keeps a check on the direct cash transfer payments, indeed, ensures that its real value per average household, i e, relative to consumer food price inflation rate, is not protected, then it will gradually reduce the major subsidies bill as a proportion of the gross domestic product (GDP).

Beginning this year, the government has initiated the Direct Benefit Transfer programme in 26 schemes (mainly for payment of scholarships of various kinds), confining it to persons who have a UID card and a bank account linked with the UID interface. But next month, the direct cash transfer scheme is to be introduced in the public distribution system (PDS) in six union territories. So the government will eventually presumably do away with the PDS in these union territories. But the direct cash transfer scheme is to be eventually scaled up to the national level. To understand the implications, keep in mind that the UID is not just for the poor or those eligible for cash transfers who have to procure UID cards. The UID involves the recording of photographs, fingerprints and iris scans of the whole population, and the entire information is then stored in a centralised, national security database. In 2013-14, some 600 million persons are expected to be photographed, fingerprinted and iris scanned. Most of the 6,00,000 villages in the country do not have a bank branch, but the government envisages the opening of some 200 million accounts, all interfaced with the UID. What is, in effect, being created is an information technology (IT) infrastructure that links all bank accounts to the UID, and, this, at the public expense.

The poor, in whose name all this is being done, have no savings worth the name and the banks do not give them loans because they lack the collateral security. We are not exaggerating; the pilot schemes that we just referred to are going to be “expanded nationwide to various transfer of all benefits” (“Statements…as required under the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act”, Union Budget 2013-14). Of course, the poor will have to deal with the banks via their banking correspondents (BCs) who will no doubt get their cut from the banks via the government coffers, but who is to stop these BCs from charging their customers more than the banks’ approved rates?

Think of it, a whole centralised, national security database is being created that can potentially be used to monitor the people enrolled in the UID, all this with no democratic accountability. Besides, via the banks, the financial system, much of it private-profit oriented, will have in place access to this database and thousands of crores of rupees under direct cash payment transfers, in effect very large additional sums of money, routed through them. And, the increasing flow of such benefits will be accompanied by the gradual dismantling of the PDS.

What then about diesel, kerosene, LPG, fertiliser and electricity subsidies? Basically, the pricing policy for subsidised goods will change to make the total amount of the subsidy “affordable” to the government and the subsidies will be better targeted, once more via Aadhaar-linked bank accounts using the UID platform. Overall, the expenditure on “major subsidies” will be targeted to come down from 2% of GDP in 2013-14 to 1.8% in 2014-15 and 1.6% in 2015-16. After all, doesn’t the UPA government fully agree with Moody’s, Standard and Poor’s, and Fitch that its major subsidies bill is “unproductive expenditure”? And, isn’t the Bharatiya Janata Party also won over to this idea of direct cash transfer payments? The biggest two beneficiaries of the whole operation, especially of the UID platform and the integrated database it has created, will, of course, be so-called national security and the financial, especially the banking, system.

#India – summary of the National Food Security Bill, 2013


March 24, 2013

1. Preliminaries

The Bill seeks “to provide for food and nutritional security in human life cycle approach, by ensuring access to adequate quantity of quality food at affordable prices to people to live a life with dignity and for matters connected therwith and incidental thereto”.

It extends to the whole of India and “shall come into force on such date as the Central Government may, by notification in the Official Gazette appoint, and different dates may be appointed for different States and different provisions of this Act”.

2. Entitlements

Public Distribution System (TPDS)

Priority households are entitled to 5 kgs of foodgrains per person per month, and Antyodaya households to 35 kgs per household per month. The combined coverage of Priority and Antyodaya households (called “eligible households”) shall extend “up to 75% of the rural population and up to 50% of the urban population”.

The PDS issue prices are given in Schedule I: Rs 3/2/1 for rice/wheat/millets (actually called “coarse grains” in the Bill). These may be revised after three years.

Children’s Entitlements

For children in the age group of 6 months to 6 years, the Bill guarantees an age-appropriate meal, free of charge, through the local anganwadi. For children aged 6-14 years, one free mid-day meal shall be provided every day (except on school holidays) in all schools run by local bodies, government and government aided schools, up to Class VIII. For children below six months, “exclusive breastfeeding shall be promoted”.

Children who suffer from malnutrition will be identified through the local anganwadi and meals will be provided to them free of charge “through the local anganwadi”.

Entitlements of Pregnant and Lactating Women

Every pregnant and lactating mother is entitled to a free meal at the local anganwadi (during pregnancy and six months after child birth) as well as maternity benefits of Rs 6,000, in instalments.

[Notes: (1) “Meal” is defined in the Bill as “hot cooked meal or ready to eat meal or take home ration, as may be prescribed by the Central Government”. All “meals” have to meet nutritional norms specified in Schedule II. (2) The entitlements of women and children are to be delivered by state governments through schemes “in accordance with the guidelines, including cost sharing” to be prescribed by the Central Government. (3) Every school and anganwadi is to have “facilities for cooking meals, drinking water and sanitation”. (4) For purposes of issuing ration cards, the eldest woman in the household (not less than 18 years of age) shall be considered head of the household.]

3. Identification of Eligible Households

The Bill does not specify criteria for the identification of households (Priority or Antyodaya) eligible for PDS entitlements. The Central Government is to determine the state-wise coverage of the PDS, in terms of proportion of the rural/urban population. Then numbers of eligible persons will be calculated from Census population figures. The identification of eligible households is left to state governments, subject to the scheme’s guidelines for Antyodaya, and subject to guidelines to be “specified” by the state government for Priority households. The lists of eligible households are to be placed in the public domain and “displayed prominently” by state governments.

4. Food Commissions

The Bill provides for the creation of State Food Commissions. Each Commission shall consist of a chairperson, five other members and a member-secretary (including at least two women and one member each from Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes).

The main function of the State Commission is to monitor and evaluate the implementation of the act, give advice to the states governments and their agencies, and inquire into violations of entitlements (either suo motu or on receipt of a complaint, and with “all the powers of a civil court while trying a suit under the Code of Civil Procedure 1908”). State Commissions also have to hear appeals against orders of the District Grievance Redressal Officer and prepare annual reports to be laid before the state legislature.

The State Commission may forward “any case” to a Magistrate having jurisdiction, who shall proceed as if the case has been forwarded under Section 346 of the Code of Criminal Procedure 1973.

5. Transparency and Grievance Redressal

The Bill provides for a two-tier grievance redressal structure, involving the District Grievance Redressal Officer (DGRO) and State Food Commission. State governments must also put in place an internal grievance redressal mechanism which may include call centres, help lines, designation of nodal officers, “or such other mechanisms as may be prescribed”.

Transparency Provisions

Mandatory transparency provisions include: (1) placing all PDS-related records in the public domain and keeping them open for inspection to the public; (2) conducting periodic social audits of the PDS and other welfare schemes; (3) using information and communication technology (including end-to-end computerisation of the PDS) “to ensure transparent recording of transactions at all levels”; (4) setting up vigilance committees at state, district, block and fair price shop levels to supervise all schemes under the act.

District Grievance Redressal Officers

DGROS shall be appointed by state governments for each district to hear complaints and take necessary action according to norms to be prescribed by state governments. If a complainant (or the officer or authority against whom an order has been passed by the DGRO) is not satisfied, he or she may file an appeal before the State Food Commission.

Penalties and Compensation

The Food Commissions have powers to impose penalties. If an order of the DGRO is not complied with, the concerned authority or officer can be fined up to Rs. 5,000. The Commission can authorise “any of its members” to act as an adjudicating officer for this purpose.

In case of “non-supply of the entitled quantities of foodgrains or meals to entitled persons”, such persons will be entitled to a food security allowance from the state government, as prescribed by the central government.

6. Other Provisions

PDS Reforms

In Chapter VII, the Bill states that central and state governments “shall endeavour to progressively undertake” various PDS reforms, including: doorstep delivery of foodgrains; ICT applications and end-to-end computerisation; leveraging “aadhaar” (UID) for unique identification of entitled beneficiaries; full transparency of records; preference to public institutions or bodies in licensing of fair price shops; management of fair price shops by women or their collectives; diversification of commodities distributed under the PDS; full transparency of records; and “introducing schemes such as cash transfer, food coupons or other schemes to the targeted beneficiaries in lieu of their foodgrain entitlements” as prescribed by the central government.

Obligations of Government and Local Authorities

The main obligation of the Central Government is to provide foodgrains (or, failing that, funds) to state governments, at prices specified in Schedule I, to implement the main entitlements. It also has to “provide assistance” to state governments to meet local distribution costs, but on its own terms (“as may be prescribed”). The Central Government has wide-ranging powers to make Rules.

The main obligation of state governments is to implement the relevant schemes, in accordance with the guidelines issued by the Central Government. State governments also have wide-ranging powers to make Rules. They are free to extend benefits and entitlements beyond what is prescribed in the Bill, from their own resources.

Local Authorities and Panchayati Raj Institutions are responsible for proper implementation of the act in their respective areas, and may be given additional responsibilities by notification.

7. Schedules

The Bill has three schedules (these can be amended “by notification”). Schedule 1 prescribes issue prices for the PDS. Schedule 2 prescribes “nutritional standards” for midday meals, take-home rations and related entitlements. For instance, take-home rations for children aged 6 months to 3 years should provide at least 500 calories and 12-15 grams of protein. Schedule 3 lists various “provisions for advancing food security”, under three broad headings: (1) revitalization of agriculture (e.g. agrarian reforms, research and development, remunerative prices), (2) procurement, storage and movement of foodgrains (e.g. decentralised procurement), and (3) other provisions (e.g. drinking water, sanitation, health care, and “adequate pensions” for “senior citizens, persons with disability and single women”).

 

PRESS RELEASE- Urgent actions regarding Health services and Food security in Maharashtra


Anna Adhikar Abhiyan (AAA) is a network of about 100 organizations across Maharashtra, campaigning on the right to food security and sovereignty while Jan Arogya Abhiyan(JAA) is the state level campaign platform working for Health rights of people in Maharashtra since over a decade.

AAA and JAA are jointly organizing a protest demonstration on 22nd March, 2013 at Azad Maidan, Mumbai, in collaboration with Anna Adhikar Abhiyan to press for urgent action on important policy demands regarding Health services and Food security in Maharashtra. Around 2000 people from various parts of the state including Right to Food activists, Health rights activists, health professionals and social activists will be participating in this mass protest and ‘Dharana Andolan’ to demand prompt action on various outstanding policy issues.

          This is to request you to participate in the Dharana Andolan’ on 22ndMarch 2013 at Azad maidan from 1.00 pm to 4.00 pm.
Food Security: Main Demands
1.    Stop Cash Transfers as an alternative to the Pulic Distribution System.
2.    Do not pass a Food Security Act that will in reality dismantle the Public Distribution System.  Pass an effective Food Security Act that will ensure that no one remains hungry.
3.    Reform, Universalise and Strengthen the Public Distribution System.
4.    Fourteen essential items and millets must be distributed   through the PDS
5.    Every card holder to be eligible to obtain twelve subsidised gas cylinders per year.
6.    Stop the entry of foreign companies in retail trade.
Healthcare: Main demands
7.    Adopt a state specific ‘Maharashtra Clinical Establishments Act’ to regulate private hospitals, based on the national act but with inclusion of provisions for protecting Patient’s rights, along with participatory review and grievance redressal mechanisms.
8.    Stop privatisation of radiological services in Medical college and District hospitals.
9.    Overcome gross shortage of essential medicines in all public health facilities by implementing the ‘Tamil Nadu model’ in comprehensive manner at earliest.
10. Strictly and effectively implement the ban on private practice by Govt. doctors, without diluting this order in any manner.

Jan Arogya Abhiyan

(Jan Swasthya Abhiyan – Maharashtra)

 

Press release -

Regulate Private Hospitals, Protect Patient’s Rights By

Enacting Maharashtra Specific Regulatory Act!

Stop privatization of public health services, ensure essential medicines in all public facilities,

End private practice by government doctors!

 

Jan Arogya Abhiyan, the State level campaign platform working for Health rights of people in Maharashtra since over a decade, is organizing a protest demonstration on 22nd March, 2013 at Azad Maidan, Mumbai, in collaboration with Anna Adhikar Abhiyan to press for urgent action on important policy demands regarding Health services and Food security in Maharashtra. Around 2000 people from various parts of the state including Right to Food activists, Health rights activists, health professionals and social activists will be participating in this mass protest and ‘Dharana andolan’ to demand prompt action on various outstanding policy issues. In this press release we are describing the context and demands concerning the Health sector, that are being raised in this joint protest on Food security and Health issues.

 

Jan Arogya Abhiyan’s main demands

  • Adopt a state specific ‘Maharashtra Clinical Establishments Act’ to regulate private hospitals, based on the national act but with inclusion of provisions for protecting Patient’s rights, along with participatory review and grievance redressal mechanisms.
  • Stop privatisation of radiological services in Medical college and District hospitals.
  • Overcome gross shortage of essential medicines in all public health facilities by implementing the ‘Tamil Nadu model’ in comprehensive manner at earliest.
  • Strictly and effectively implement the ban on private practice by Govt. doctors, without diluting this order in any manner.
  1. Adopt a state specific ‘Maharashtra Clinical Establishments Act’ to regulate private hospitals, with inclusion of provisions for participatory regulation and Patient’s rights.

 

More than 80% of patients in Maharashtra seek care in private hospitals and clinics, however this sector is today characterized by large scale commercialization and overcharging, lack of effective self regulation by Medical councils, frequent irrational procedures, and violation of patient’s rights. In this context the national ‘Clinical Establishments Act 2010’ is an important step towards standardization of quality and costs of care. However, if Maharashtra government adopts this act in existing form, then due to certain major lacunae in the national act and rules, its implementation would hardly lead to significant benefits for patients or accountability of private hospitals. Rather in absence of accountability mechanisms and participatory forums, it is likely to promote ‘Babu raj’. Hence JAA demands that certain key improvements must be made in the regulatory framework; this is possible only if Maharashtra government adopts its own state specific Clinical Establishment Act, incorporating various positive features of the national act, and adding key provisions to ensure that Patients’ rights are protected and accountability mechanisms are made functional.

 

Some positive features of the national act, which must be included in the Maharashtra Clinical Establishments Act are:

  1. All private hospitals and clinical establishments (including labs, imaging centres) will have to adopt Standard Treatment Guidelines, and will need to maintain some minimum standards. This would help protect patients from irrational, exploitative treatment and from substandard facilities.
  2. Charges by hospitals will have to be within the range decided by the government, after following consultative process with stakeholders including representatives from doctors. This will check exorbitant charging currently resorted by many doctors.
  3. Clinical establishments will have to display charges for some of the typical main items like consulting charges, room charges etc. This will help patients to know the affordability of each hospital, enabling them to choose hospitals they can afford and have idea in advance of the expected charges.

 

Jan Arogya Abhiyan welcomes these provisions, and stresses that these must be ensured in the regulatory framework. However we also note that the national act and rules have certain major lacunae such as there is no separate, autonomous structure (and dedicated budget) to ensure implementation of the act; there is no mention of Patient’s rights or any kind of grievance redressal mechanism for patients; there are no district level multi-stakeholder review forums with representation of consumers, patients rights groups or civil society organisations. In this situation, the act is not likely to be effectively implemented, patients’ rights in private hospitals would continue to be sidelined, and since there are hardly any accountability mechanisms regarding the regulatory authority, there is likely to be misuse of powers and corruption, instead of promotion of patients welfare.

Jan Arogya Abhiyan holds that the regulatory framework for Clinical establishments should be accountable and participatory, with involvement of relevant stakeholders; and there should be adequate mechanisms to uphold patient’s rights. If Maharashtra wants to adopt this Central Act, it can do so only in totality, without any significant amendments, due to existing constitutional provisions.  However the State government has full constitutional mandate to enact its own health-legislation since health is a state subject. Hence JAA demands the formulation and adoption of a state specific Maharashtra Clinical Establishments Act, based on the current national act but also including provisions for:

  • Deployment of designated additional regulatory structure, staff and budget to ensure proper implementation of this act
  • Recognition and protection of patients rights, with clear redressal mechanisms for patients in case their rights are violated or defined rates, standards, protocols are not observed in practice
  • Multi-stakeholder review bodies at district level, including Patients rights activists and civil society organisations, to ensure accountability and functionality of regulatory authorities

 

  1. Stop privatisation of Radiological services in Medical college and District hospitals!

 

The decision of the Maharashtra Government to privatise radiological services in Medical college and District hospitals is retrogressive and unnecessary. Any existing deficiencies in these services should be remedied through appropriate steps and policy decisions; privatisation is not the answer. Continued provision of X-ray and CT scan facilities in district hospitals and above should not be a problem, since radiologists and other technical human power is available in such cities. If no radiologist is available to work full time in these district hospitals and medical college hospitals, some radiologists can be hired on a part time basis. To effect such arrangement of in-sourcing of medical experts, the professional and administrative environment in these Public hospitals would have to be improved considerably by removing bureaucratic obstacles and political interference. The general experience has been that privatisation of healthcare services increases denial of healthcare services to the poor, even if those with BPL cards are supposed to get free services from these privatised facilities, since the genuine poor people are excluded under one pretext or other. Jan Arogya Abhiyan demands that this decision of privatization of radiological services be reversed immediately and corrective steps be taken as mentioned above, so that Public hospitals can provide quality health care services to the people.

 

  1. Ensure adequate provision of essential medicines in all public health facilities by implementing the ‘Tamil Nadu model’ in comprehensive manner at earliest

 

Maharashtra’s medicine procurement and distribution system requires complete overhaul to overcome continued gross shortages of medicines in Public health facilities. The current system of procurement is non-transparent and inefficient hence Jan Arogya Abhiyan demands that the tried and tested, renowned system of medicine procurement and distribution in Tamil Nadu should be fully adopted in Maharashtra (with minor modifications if needed), instead of indulging in half-hearted and inadequate initiatives. When states like Kerala and Rajasthan have effectively adopted this model, and other states are in the process, why is Maharashtra Govt. reluctant to go in for an autonomous, transparent procurement body, and pass-book based demand driven distribution system? The inefficient, wasteful and corrupt medicine procurement and distribution system in Maharashtra requires complete overhaul and not half baked, ill conceived experiments.

 

  1. Government should strictly and effectively implement the ban on private practice by Public doctors, and should not dilute this order in any manner.

 

Today one reason for decline in people’s confidence in public health facilities is the frequent absence of doctors. Particularly specialist doctors may be often be absent since they are busy in their private practice, even as they draw a full salary from the Government! In this context the State health department has recently taken a positive decision to ban all private practice by Govt. doctors, along with providing 35% additional Non-practicing allowance (NPA). However due to weak implementation of this order, several Govt. doctors continue their private practice. Hence JAA demands strict implementation of this order across the state.

Certain Govt. doctors have reportedly demanded an ‘option’ of not accepting NPA and continuing their private practice, and pressure is being brought on the Health department to allow such relaxation. JAA demands that the Health department should not give in to any such pressures, and should not dilute the ban on private practice or reconsider this key decision.

 

We would like to note that Jan Arogya Abhiyan had presented all these demands to the Health Minister of Maharashtra, during our protest at Nagpur at time of the Assembly session on 19 December 2012, however no concrete action has been taken by the Government so far. Hence we have planned the protest at Mumbai on 22nd March 2013, by means of which we would like to draw attention of the public to these issues, and assert the need for the Government to address these issues promptly.

 

Dr. Anant Phadke             Dr. Suhas Kolhekar        Brian Lobo  Leni Chaudhuri

(9423531478)           (9422986771)                  (9421549824)           (9820639762)

Dr. Satish Gogulwar           Bandu Sane                       Kajal Jain   Pramod Nigudkar

(9422123016)                     (9890359154)                  (9970231967)            (9860287966)

 

All activists belonging to constituent organisations and networks: Kashtakari Sanghatana, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan – Mumbai, National Alliance for People’s Movements, Mahila Rajsatta Andolan, Bharatiya Mahila Federation, Rationing Kruti Samiti, Movement for Peace and Justice, ASHA Workers’ Union

Vada Na Todo Abhiyan

Jan Arogya Abhiyan – Maharashtra State                                                       

Contact: Dr. Anant Phadke: 8, Ameya Ashish society, Konkan express lane, Kothrud, Pune – 411038

Phone – 9423531478  email - anant.phadke@gmail.comjanarogyaabhiyan@gmail.com

Contact: Dr. Anant Phadke: 8, Ameya Ashish society, Konkan express lane, Kothrud, Pune – 411038

Phone – 9423531478  email - anant.phadke@gmail.comjanarogyaabhiyan@gmail.com

 

#India -GM crops will sow food insecurity


KAVITA SRIVASTAVA, The Hindu

Farmers destroying GM crops in Karnataka. GM crops are input-intensive and labour-displacing. — K. Bhagya Prakash

Farmers destroying GM crops in Karnataka. GM crops are input-intensive and labour-displacing. — K. Bhagya Prakash

The recent affidavit filed by the Ministry of Agriculture in the Supreme Court arguing that if India does not walk the path of genetically modified (GM) food, then it will starve, gives a scary picture of how the highest court of the country can be misguided in order to protect global corporate interests.

This is a lie, because the situation of hunger, malnutrition and food insecurity of the people in the country is not due to inadequacy of production (we have had record production in the last three years), but due to distribution and purchasing power. The Indian Government is one of the world’s biggest hoarders of foodgrains, about 667 lakh tonnes as on January 1, 2013. This makes the current stock 2.5 times more than the Government’s own benchmark for buffer stocks. One wonders why our Government continues to insist that lack of food production is the cause for hunger in this country?

The question to ask is, why are these mountains of foodgrains not being distributed to the people when a third of the children are born malnourished, half of children are underweight and a third of the adult population has a body mass index (BMI) of below 18.5, one of the worst in the world.

Corporate interests

The Planning Commission’s estimate of the required subsistence calorie intake for defining the poverty line is set at 2,400 calories per person per day in rural areas and 2,100 calories per person per day in urban areas. Going by that figure, at least 80 per cent of the population in rural areas and 50 per cent in urban areas fall below the required subsistence intake. We stand way down the Global hunger Index at 65th out of 88 nations, worse than many sub-Saharan African countries.

Despite repeated Supreme Court orders regarding distribution of foodgrains to the poor at Antyodaya prices, the Government does not comply and refuses to allow food to be distributed through the public distribution system (PDS), although clandestine ways are used to export the grain abroad. And now we have this attempt of the Agriculture Ministry with its GM promotion to push for global corporate interests by riding on the backs of our starving millions. It is important to ask whether GM crops are a solution much worse than the problem that is being sought to be addressed.

The decision of bringing in GM food may not only harm Indian agriculture overwhelmingly but also push a majority of people to the brink of starvation. GM crops are an extension of input-intensive and labour-displacing model of industrial agriculture. Hence, they would harm small and marginal farmers and farm labourers, majority of whom are women. It is important to observe that agriculture, unique among sectors of production, plays the dual role of providing an enormously important source of livelihood and of producing the means of life.

Output Mirage

To link GM to increased food production, and hence food security, is a fallacy. Evidence is emerging that food security indicators have not improved but only deteriorated in countries that have adopted GM crops elsewhere in substantial areas. A recent letter from hundreds of Indian scientists, sent to the Minister for Environment and Forests, presents clear and strong evidence on this.

From our experience with Bt cotton it is clear that cultivation of GM crops, though it failed to increase yields, definitely increases input costs because of the royalty attached to seeds. It also includes increased irrigation and agrochemical requirements. Food security also means availability of safe food. There is growing scientific evidence questioning the safety of GM food. This shows the irresponsibility of the Ministry of Agriculture towards the people of this country, in advocating the introduction of yet-to-be-proven-safe technologies with several potential hazards as a part of our food systems.

Comprehensive provisions

Hunger and malnutrition are the greatest threat to India’s national security. The National Food Security Bill is a crucial opportunity to address this. We hope that this will not be missed when Parliament deliberates the report of the Standing Committee on Food and Consumer Affairs on the National Food Security Bill 2011. The present Bill and the Standing Committee recommendations have undermined the issues of farmers and consumers, by not recommending measures to ensure sustainable food production, guaranteeing MSP at real input costs, or providing safe food which is free of contamination from GMOs or agrochemicals.

Instead, the committee has recommended the provisioning of fortified foodgrains andatta (flour) under the PDS which opens the door for commercialisation of both agriculture and the food system; fortification of food grains could also open the doors for GM technologies.

The committee’s recommendations have also undermined the right to food of children, by provisioning maternal entitlements for only the first two children, thus denying the exclusive breast feeding rights of subsequent children born to the family and also not providing legal cover to the Anganwadis. It has undermined the vulnerable people’s right to food by not bringing Community Kitchens under the law, and undermined nutritional security by only talking of distribution of cereals.

Further, it falls far short of providing adequate food to all (universal) through the PDS, by only covering 67 per cent of the population with as little as 5 kg of cereals per head per month. It, finally, has not provided for criminal penalties or independent grievance redressal systems, essentially diluting the legal guarantees given by the Supreme Court in the “right to food” case. We hope that Parliament will undo what the Ministry of Agriculture is trying to do through the courts and bring in the wisdom that food security must address issues related to access to resources (land, forests and water), provide for revival of agriculture, protect livelihoods of food producers, especially small & and marginal farmers, and preserve local food systems.

In order to ensure that we are a society free of malnutrition and hunger, the need of the hour is to immediately legislate a truly comprehensive food security Bill rather than the myopic one that is being proposed.


By arguing that GM crops are essential to food security, the Government seeks to conceal the underlying reality.


(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated February 20, 2013)

 

#India -The great card trick #UID #Aadhaar


Another much-touted card that we have to chase and woo!

 

Gouri Dange, Pune Mirror

 

Posted On Wednesday, January 30, 2013 at 08:20:48 AM

 

 

The aadhaar card is another addition to the many official documents we are forced to make

It’s not easy, remaining a card-carrying citizen of planet India. Let’s see now — how many cards have I, over the years, have to get for myself? Each time being told that this is THE card, and after you get a hold of this one, there is NO other card that you will have to furnish to prove that you are a bonafide citizen of this great land, and entitled to all the wonderful goodies that it has to offer. So there was long ago the ration card.

Your parents carefully, oh so carefully, got theirs, held on to it, and when you grew up, you were handed a precious grubby note that said that your name had been cut from their card and you were now eligible to have your own ration card.

Living in peace time, and in that very fortunate strata of society that never had to stand in line for substandard foodgrains and kerosene, that ration card served me only ever to prove I was me, and to get that other Holy Grail, the gas card.

Then along came that other much-touted thing, the election card. And no, your passport, which you had acquired determinedly without the help of a tout, was not enough to establish your bona fides for your election card.

You had to pull out that birth cert and school leaving cert and ‘light bill’ for where you lived, and go do that whole thing. That was circa 1992 —at that time, we were also asked to hand in our old ration cards, because the whole system was to be revamped and us haves were going to have a different coloured one, and the have-nots another coloured ones and the have-nothings would get a third colour. That is the last I ever saw of my haloed ration card, and thank god I was never ever asked for it again.

As for the election card, that too was never required of me ever anywhere, and it sits patiently in my filing cabinet in a file importantly marked Important Documents. Somewhere along the way, I made a passport, and now, I was told, I had THE document of all documents in my hand, never ever needing anything else. Then came the PAN card. At last, we were told, this PAN card will be THE final card you will need for anything, ever.

And it was so important that even if you lived without one, you could not die without one or your relatives would have to feed you to the maggots in a jungle or something and so people ran around like headless chicken for this PAN card — which of course again needed at least 3 documents to procure. Well, here I exaggerate — because mine came without much ado, on the basis of my passport.

When the new kid-on-the-block, the aadhaar card, began to shimmer on the horizon, I decided to play ostrich. I just put my head in the sand and let all the commotion simply happen around me.

Itold myself that this was really for the have-nots, and I would never really need to use one, as I was a have-everything, given that I could buy food in the market, cook it on a gas cylinder connection that I legitimately owned, had a PAN card, passport, election card (on which instead of d.o.b they had my age — which instantly made it a non-proof of age, by the way).

Then I saw that people around me, other have-everythings, and not just the have-nots, were marching off and getting their aadhaar card done. So I reluctantly pulled my head out of the sand, and enviously heard stories of people’s residential societies or organisations simply calling the aadhaar card maker with his magic machine come to their doorstep.

Since I live in a place that goes by the ‘every man for himself’ principle, I went to the office of a local nagar sevak who advertised on giant posters that we could apply for our card there. What I encountered there, on four different abortive trips, was that his pals and kith and kin had set up some kind of mini-power-centre there.

People were being shouted at, herded, turned back, and hissed at. We were to take a token number, to come back another day. But that token number was available only between 10 and 11 in the morning and on many days the office shutter was firmly down, because it was the main-man’s kid’s birthday or something.

Those who did manage to get fingerprinted, etc were told rudely — ok now your card can come to you in two months or two years — don’t bug us here asking for it. On my third trip there, some good tired Samaritan standing around suggested we go to a big housing complex near by, where it was being done.

By this time, me, four army jawans who had missed their big day back at their base and were hence running pillar to post, and a bunch of people wanting help to fill the form (which had deliciously unintelligible acronyms like p.o.i, p.o.r, etc – and a couple of questions that needed yes-no answers, but were worded in that ‘Have you stopped beating your wife?’ cryptic way) had become quite a rag-tag team, wandering around in search of some logic and kindness.

The big housing complex that we went to simply sneered at us, all puffed up by the presence of the aadhaar machine in their society, and firmly clanged the gates on us.

Just when I was all set to do my ostrich act again, another giant poster came up in my area, and yet another nagar sevak was advertising that he was saving or sevaing us by providing the aadhaar card set up too.

And wonder of wonders, we were treated politely, asked the right questions, our papers were checked, and we did not even have to make an appointment to come again another day.

Never mind that the fingerprinting machines look like they were thrown away by some First World nation, and I almost had to make a handstand on one of them for my prints to appear clearly, but if all goes well, in three months I will be in possession of yet another hard-won card.

 

No Aadhar card? You could be a suspect #UID #WTFnews


 

200 px

 

 

 

Published: Tuesday, Jan 15, 2013, 8:00 IST

 

By Sanjeev Devasia | Place: Mumbai | Agency: DNA

 

 

 

If you are among those who think that obtaining an Aadhar card is not important, then you could be a suspect to officials of the state carrying out the Aadhar card enrolment.

 

 

Also, officials at the collectorate level will soon match and collate data of voters, data of those availing the Public Distribution System (PDS), data of electricity connections and also those availing scholarships among other schemes with the Aadhar card data to cross-verify whether there is duplication or false information and, more importantly, find out whether they are falsely claiming benefits from any government scheme.

 

 

A senior official of the state government said, “With the collation of data, we are expecting a 10-15% saving for the government in the form of stopping leakages in the system due to false data provided by false beneficiaries.”

 

 

He added, “For example, if there is a 45-year-old man who is claiming the benefits of a senior citizen, then the truth will be out as the data of various agencies will be matched with the Aadhar data, which will have the person’s photograph and biometric identity.”

 

 

An official of the state IT department said “Officials of various collectorates will start the exercise of matching the data procured from various agencies and we will be providing with software to match the data. But this exercise will only start after maximum enrolment is carried out and only a few is remaining to be enrolled. If even after maximum enrolment is carried out and there are citizens who have not opted for an Aadhar card, then we will feel they have something to hide.”

 

 

However, the progress of enrolment for Aadhar cards has not been very fast in Mumbai. Of around 1.25 crore people, only 70 lakh have enrolled, while in districts such as Wardha and Amravati have registered about 90-100% enrolment.