#Budget2013 high on rhetoric, low on funds for food security


Buisnesstoday

Sebastian P.T.
Sebastian P.T.

For all the talk of the United Progressive Alliance government about the seminal step the proposed National Food Security Bill will be in eradicating hunger and malnutrition, Finance Minister P Chidambaram‘s budgetary allocation for it is paltry. In his Budget speech , the Finance Minister said he was setting aside an extra Rs 10,000 crore, apart from the usual provision for  food subsidy, toward the “incremental cost” likely once the legislation is passed.

How much has Chidambaram provided? Part two of the Expenditure Budget documents shows it is Rs 90,000 crore. The document clarifies: “The provision of Rs 90,000 core for food subsidy also includes a provision of Rs 10,000 crore for implementing the National Food Security Act.”

How much was the food subsidy envisioned in the last Budget (2012/13) for the current financial year? It was Rs 75,000 crore, and the revised estimate was above Rs 85,000. But this estimate – as the government itself has said – was based on population numbers of year 2000. Had this figure been updated to the 2011 census, the food subsidy would have been above Rs 1,10,000 crore (as per Food Ministry’s estimates).

And, if the 2011 census figures are used to estimate the food subsidy bill for 2013/14, it rises, by the food ministry’s own calculations, to Rs 124,000 crore – even without the Food Security Bill becoming law. If it is passed the subsidy will be even higher. Of course, all these estimates are based on the Bill introduced in the Lok Sabha in December 2011.

So how does Chidambaram’s allocation of Rs 90,000 crore amount to an additional outlay?  “I don’t know the Bill yet,” said Chidambaram at his press conference after the Budget announcement. “There is no Food Security Bill at the moment. We only have the Standing Committee’s report on an earlier version of the Bill. It is only when the (revised) Bill is presented to the Cabinet, that we can do an assessment of its cost. I cannot put a number today. However, in anticipation that a Bill will carry an incremental cost, I have provided Rs 10,000 crore.”

But he should have had an idea. The estimates of the food ministry, based on the original provisions of the Bill, are public knowledge. The original bill intended to include up to three-fourths of the rural population and half the urban population as beneficiaries, with 46 per cent of the former and 28 per cent of the latter being ‘priority households’, which would be entitled to seven kilos of foodgrain per person per month, at prices of one rupee per kg for coarse grain, two rupees for wheat and three rupees for rice. (Distinct from them would be the ‘general households’, which would get three kilos or less at half the price the government paid farmers to procure the grain.) The ministry estimated the subsidy at Rs 1,26,000 crore a year.

How can Rs 90,000 crore then be called an enhanced allocation? “This is a big letdown,” said N.C. Saxena, member of the Sonia Gandhi headed National Advisory Council (NAC). “The meagre Rs. 10,000 crore set aside for the implementation of the Food Security bill not only implies the lack of urgency on the government’s part to enact it but also the gross underestimation of the additional resources required,” says Subrat Das, Executive Director, Centre for Budget and Governance Accountability.

Examining the original Bill,the Standing Committee on Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution has recommended removing the distinction between priority and general households, among other things. But no final decision has been taken. Whatever is decided, however, even if the final cost is less than Rs 126,000 crore, it certainly will be much more than what the finance minister has provided for. He certainly will have to loosen his wallet or the outcome could well be a diluted Bill, hardly serving the noble intent.

 

#India- #Budget2013, Gender insensitive ,enforcing gender stereotypes #Womenrights


Budget 2013- Gender Gap yet again

Not only is budget gender-insensitive, it strengthens gender stereotyping and reinforces the invisibility of women from the economy
Ritu Dewan
First Published: Fri, Mar 01 2013. ,livemint.com
womenindia
What is even more cynical, if not insulting, is the `200 crore allocated for women “belonging to the most vulnerable groups, including single women and widows, (who) must be able to live with self-esteem and dignity”.
Budget 2013, unveiled 10 weeks after the Delhi gang-rape and 10 days before International Women’s Day, was preceded by hope among women that the promises and pledges made by the government to advance their cause would, for once, not remain mere platitudes but be articulated in the single-most important financial document of the year.
The hope was belied. Not only is Budget 2013 gender-insensitive, it in fact strengthens gender stereotyping and reinforces the invisibility of women from the economy in almost every sense of the term.
It is a well documented fact that both the agricultural and the rural sector are heavily feminized, providing a livelihood to four-fifths of all working women in India. Yet, nowhere is this recognized even though the 12th Plan emphatically states that schemes such as Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) will have a special women’s quota, and that single women can form collectives for group cultivation. The latter is an issue that some of us, as part of the Feminists Economists Committee for the 11th as well as 12th Plan have struggled hard for.
Similarly, hugely transformative programmes such as the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Rural Mission (JNNURM) and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS) are all “gender-less”. As is the fundamentally democratic issue of gendering governance, what with Panchayati Raj institutions themselves being given such short shrift.
In fact, no economic agency is ascribed to women; they are the predictable, stereotyped, reproductive agents defined as usual in the syndrome of patriarchal semantics. So, therefore, increased allocations to women and their tag-ons both in societal and budgetary terms—children, nutrition and so on. The issue here is not to deny the crucial importance and desperate urgency of even higher funding for these sub-areas, but to give visibility to the independent economic, budgetary, fiscal and financial status of women.
Additionally, the imperative of gendered financial inclusion has been totally trivialized in the form of an all-women bank, which is easier to set up than to gender-sensitize existing banking procedures; it’s something that will marginalize women even more. Gendered financial inclusion can be greatly enhanced by introducing an equilibrium between financial and physical targets; this is especially important in the context of the fact that women generally take small loans, and the fact that while physical targets may be filled, financial disbursements constitute an insignificant amount. Similarly, what was hoped for were changes in other supplementary monetary instruments such as medical insurance policies which currently have different rules for single women and also men who are out of the marital patriarchal slot.
Additionally, individual taxation is preferred because the economic benefit of working depends on how much a woman earns and not the fact of her location in the patriarchal marital structure. The fiscal instrument of an additional tax exemption to women was expected to be re-introduced in order to increase her incentive to take up employment and shift her labour supply curve. Budget 2013 appears to have absolved the State of any responsibility whatsoever of incorporating employment in its current strategy by insisting that women undertake their own economic empowerment through “assisted” self-employment while men may do so by “skill” enhancement.
While it is good that social sector spending has not been negatively impacted by the Budget, already introduced cuts in subsidies on household maintenance commodities such as kerosene and cooking gas have directly affected the time use pattern of women and increased their time poverty. It thus increases the “reproductive” tax that the woman has to pay to the economy as a direct result of change in macroeconomic policies.
The budget asserts that “We have a collective responsibility to ensure the dignity and safety of women…for which Rs.1,000 crore are pledged…(to) the Nirbhaya Fund..,” so-called because Nirbhaya, or fearless, was the fictional name given by a newspaper to the Delhi gang-rape victim who died on 29 December in a Singapore hospital. Money was allocated but no measures were promised to promote the goal.
What is even more cynical, if not insulting, is the Rs.200 crore allocated for women “belonging to the most vulnerable groups, including single women and widows, (who) must be able to live with self-esteem and dignity”. This largesse works out to a humiliating Rs.74 and 07 paise even if this entire amount is spent solely for the benefit of the 27 million female-headed households in the country. This works to even less than that allocated for the setting up of a National Institute of Sports Coaching.
A budgetary gender critique, to be relevant and true, must be located within the context of the paradigm within which the budget is perceived. If the mantra is “higher growth leading to inclusive and sustainable development,” then we need to urgently re-examine all evidence that has points unequivocally to the fact that in the years when the Indian economy was growing at an 8% pace, there was less than 1% reduction in poverty.
The writer is professor and head, Centre for Gender Economics, Department of Economics, University of Mumbai

#India-Court orders probe into ‘cheating’ charges against Chidambaram, Shinde


 

 

Palaniappan Chidambaram (1)

Palaniappan Chidambaram (1) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

P Pavan, Bangalore Mirror

Posted On Monday, January 28, 2013

 

A local court on Monday directed police to probe allegations that Union Ministers Sushilkumar Shinde and P Chidambaram had “cheated” the people of Telangana region by their statements on the statehood issue.

The move was based on a complaint by Naresh Kumar, president of the Telangana Junior Advocates’ Association, who filed a petition in LB Nagar court complaining that the ministers had cheated the people of Telangana by going back on their word to announce the decision on the demand for a separate Telangana state.
In his petition, Kumar sought the court’s directions to refer the matter to police under section 420 (cheating) of the Indian Penal Code. “As evidence to substantiate my charge, I have attached the official statements made by P Chidambaram and Sushilkumar Shinde. I also attached the statement of AICC general secretary-in-charge of Andhra Pradesh, Ghulam Nabi Azad of January 27, 2013 that one month does not mean 30 days,” said Pradeep.
A month ago, Shinde had said the Telangana issue would be resolved within a month. On December 9, 2009, then Home Minister Chidambaram had made an announcement to initiate the process to create Telangana state. However, he modified the statement on December 23, 2009.
Second Metropolitan Magistrate Court directed the L B Nagar Police to file a status report by February 14.
7 CONG MPS TO RESIGN FOR TELANGANA
Furious with the delay in formation of a separate Telangana state, seven Congress MPs from the region on Monday decided to resign both from parliament and the party.
After a meeting, the MPs said they would send their resignation letters to party president Sonia Gandhi on Tuesday. They said they would ask the party leadership to take a decision to carve out a separate state in a week or forward their resignations to the speaker. The MPs who attended the meeting are K Rajagopal Reddy, Ponnam Prabhakar, Madhu Yaskhi, S Rajaiah, G Vivekanand, Gutha Sukender Reddy and Manda Jaganath.
 
‘Sonia is torturing the people of !Telangana’: trs chief
!For the first time, Telangana Rashtra Samithi (TRS) president K Chandrasekhara Rao directly criticised Congress President Sonia Gandhi and the Gandhi family on the Telangana issue. “Sonia is torturing the people of Telangana. Congress has been cheating them for three generations from Nehru to Indira to Sonia. They have become a curse for Telangana,” he said, at a Samara Deeksha held by Telangana Joint Action Committee (TJAC).
Rao had once referred to Sonia Gandhi as ‘goddess’ who would give them Telangana. TJAC has announced a social boycott of Congress leaders in the region.

 

 

Government to implement Aadhaar in 43 districts from January 1, 2013 #UID


By PTI – NEW DELHI

06th December 2012 04:07 PM

  • Home Minister P Chidambaram said a decision on whether Aadhaar should be mandatory for getting benefits through direct cash transfer, would be taken by individual ministries/ departments with respect to their own schemes. (PTI photo/File)
    Home Minister P Chidambaram said a decision on whether Aadhaar should be mandatory for getting benefits through direct cash transfer, would be taken by individual ministries/ departments with respect to their own schemes. (PTI photo/File)

Within days of Election Commission issuing direction in the direct cash transfer scheme, the government today said it will be implemented in 43 districts, as against 51 announced earlier.

“As Aadhaar numbers are in the process of being issued, Aadhar enabled direct cash transfer is being implemented in a phase wise manner beginning with 43 districts from January 1, 2013,” Finance Minister P Chidambaram said in a written reply to the Rajya Sabha.

The government’s earlier announcement of implementing cash transfer in 29 welfare schemes in 51 districts from January 1 was objected to by BJP, in view of the state- elections in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.

Following a complaint by the BJP, the Election Commission has asked the government to postpone implementation of the scheme in these two states.

Chidambaram, in his reply, said a decision on whether Aadhaar should be mandatory for getting benefits through direct cash transfer, would be taken by individual ministries/ departments with respect to their own schemes.

The electronic cash transfers will be based on Aadhar (Unique Identification Number) platform. The entire country is targeted to be covered by the end of next year.

“Since Aadhaar is based on unique identity of a person that includes finger print…, the proposed transfer will help in de-duplication and accurate targeting of the beneficiary,” Chidambaram said.

The schemes which would come under the purview of the cash transfer scheme from January 1 would include those of Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Human Resources Development (HRD), Minority, Welfare, Women and Child Development, Health and Family and Labour and Employment.

Aadhaar, a 12-digit number, serves as a proof of identity and address anywhere in the country. The UIDAI has already issued 21 crore Aadhaar cards.

 

Banking hiccups are the biggest challenge for direct transfer of subsidy #Aadhar #UID


Demanding draft , The Week
By Soumik Dey
Story Dated: Tuesday, December 4, 2012 14:30 hrs IST

Call for change: A tribal woman shows her ration card to get coupons to purchase subsidised rice. AP Photo

The villagers of Kotkasim in Alwar, Rajasthan, recently experienced something for the first time. Direct cash transfer of subsidy, they were told, would be more beneficial than the existing method. Against their purchase of kerosene at market price (unsubsidised), they received three months’ subsidy directly in their bank accounts. But it was anything but beneficial—according to a study by field researchers Bharat Bhatti and Madhulika with development economist Jean Dreze, the amount spent on travelling to banks exceeded the amount they collected as subsidy. Also, the payment of subsidies was erratic and untimely.
Despite the initial hiccups, however, many more bank accounts will be ringing with cash from deposits made by the government in lieu of subsidies from next January. Plans are afoot to provide cash doles instead of subsidising essential purchases by next year. Payouts for farm loans, scholarships and employment schemes would be directly credited to beneficiary accounts even before that.
Is direct cash transfer a better way to give subsidies? Theoretically, yes. It will surely plug the leaks in the messy public distribution system. Also, as Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said, falsification and duplication would be practically eliminated. “I believe it would also result in considerable savings for the exchequer,” he said.
The first phase of the project will be based on Aadhaar identities of citizens in 51 districts in 16 states. It would cover 29 of 42 government welfare schemes. The 12-digit Aadhaar number, which has already been issued to 21 crore people, will suffice as the identity to link it with bank accounts.
But even the very first step—that is the government depositing money in beneficiaries’ bank accounts—could falter unless a few  things are fixed. In a recent meeting with public sector bank chairmen, Chidambaram was told about some “practical problems” that need to be resolved before rolling out the project. The most important concern was about reaching the unbanked people in remote areas, whose livelihoods largely depend on government support.
“To meet the January deadline in 15 states, banks will have to do much. The finance minister has asked banks to speed up financial inclusion for the unbanked districts and blocks by setting up branches or banking 
correspondents,” said D.K. Mittal, financial service secretary at the finance ministry, after the meeting, which was also attended by chief ministers of 21 states. It was suggested that bank employees carry handheld machines and dispense cash to beneficiaries in person.
Initially, the cash transfers would be for farm loans, educational loans, and health and social justice schemes. At a later stage, the system would be used for transferring subsidy for anything from food to fuel. “Anything and everything that is a subsidy will have to be paid through this system. Making electronic transfers for retail purchases is still a big challenge, but we are working on it,” said Mittal.
Banks face another serious problem as well. They would be held responsible if any Aadhaar information leaks, an account gets hacked or a wrong beneficiary manages to get enrolled. “Enlisting correspondents can be done very quickly and at a very low expense. But the main challenge here is having a secure technological network. So far we had partnered with private players to use their networks, but having bank’s own infrastructure would be mandatory for managing subsidy distribution,” said Pratip Chaudhuri, chairman, State Bank of India.
The government has been urging banks to start new accounts even without Aadhaar, but with other relevant documents, and finish rolling out the direct cash transfer of subsidy by April next year. Banks have opened five crore accounts using Aadhaar so far, but will have to open six crore more in just over a month.
The government’s target has largely been accepted by most bank chiefs. However, some of them have said that it could be ambitious on more than one count. “There is also a possibility of enrolling too many fake IDs early on. Without the biometric Aadhaar cards, assuring real identities of beneficiaries would be a problem,” said a public sector bank chairman, who did not wish to be named.
Many states have voiced their concerns about assigning Aadhaar cards as the only recognised identification of beneficiaries. “States do much of the distribution of subsidies aimed at mothers, children and health reliefs for the physically challenged, many of whom may not have enrolled under Aadhaar. Opening zero-balance accounts using Aadhaar cards itself is a very time-consuming affair,” said Sheila Dikshit, chief minister of Delhi,  which has been identified by Chidambaram as one of the states to implement the project in the first phase.
While a lot still needs to be done, the stage is set for banks to become a crucial link between the Centre, states and subsidy beneficiaries. If they can achieve this, the rewards are promising. The government’s annual subsidy disbursal amounts to around Rs.3 lakh crore. Banks surely know that a lot of their problems could be solved with that kind of liquidity in the system.

Technical support

While reaching the unbanked rural population is the biggest challenge before the direct transfer of subsidy, many service providers have already come up with solutions. Delhi-based Starfin India uses a biometric system, with a user-friendly software developed by Tata Consultancy Services, to connect to State Bank of India’s servers. The company identifies people in villages with computer and connectivity, and trains them to use the biometric system and become customer service points.
“Currently we have about 300 villages in our network and are opening about 10,000 no-frills accounts a month in rural and urban areas of five states,” said Jitendra Singh, managing director and CEO of Starfin. “We started a year back and have done about Rs. 500 crore worth of transactions so far.” Starfin charges its users Rs.6 to Rs.12 for deposits and withdrawals.
Beam Money, another such service provider, has RBI approval for using mobile phone networks to make money transfers. “Direct cash transfers can be done through mobile or landline phone connections. Given the documentation and verifications for securing phone connections, they are as secure as using biometric cards like Aadhaar for linking beneficiary accounts,” said Anand Shrivastav, chairman and managing director, Beam Money.

 

Indian Govt to ensure security of NE students: Chidambaram


May 04, 2012, Rediff.com

Rejecting the contention that students from North East are subjected to discrimination and racial profiling, Home Minister P ChidambaramImages ] on Friday said the government will take every step to ensure their security and asked states to do the same.

“The government of India [ Images ] will take every step to ensure their security and I am confident that all state governments will discharge their constitutional responsibilities to ensure the safety and security of all people residing within that state,” Chidambaram said in Rajya Sabha.

He was responding to a calling attention notice by Leader of the Opposition Arun JaitleyImages ] in the wake of deaths of two students from North East in Gurgaon, Haryana and BengaluruImages ].

Jaitley said, “I call the attention of home minister towards issues of racial profiling and discrimination towards students of North East, who go to different parts.”

Replying to it, Chidambaram said the state governments were primarily responsible for the prevention of crimes arising out of discrimination, adding, the Centre accorded “highest importance to development of North Eastern region as well as prevention of atrocities against Schedule Tribe and will not countenance discrimination in any form.”

Referring to the recent death of Dana Sangma in Gurgaon near DelhiImages ] and of Richard Loitum in Bengaluru besides allegations of racial profiling against Tibetans during the recent BRICS summit, he said these have caused disquiet and agitation among the community, specially students from the region.

He said the police is investigating the deaths of both Sangma and Loitam after registering cases and conducting post mortems.

Stressing that students from the region have right to security and peace and they are “free to travel and reside in any part of the country,” Chidambaram said it was not correct that the students from the North Eastern states in Delhi were more vulnerable as compared to students from other regions.

“In 2010, 8 cases of offences against women from the North Eastern state were registered and, in 2011, 7 such cases were reported. All cases were investigated and further proceedings are underway,” he said.

Admitting that during BRICS summit on March 29, the Delhi Police did detain some Tibetans and their supporters as there was an apprehension that the Tibetan groups would disrupt the summit, Chidambaram stressed that the police have “categorically stated that there was no racial profiling.”

“During the checking process some Indians, including a few from the North-Eastern States were also detained for a short while and let off as soon as their identities were confirmed,” he said.

He said while the exact number students from North East was not available a number of them resided in metropolitan cities like Delhi, Mumbai [ Images ], Kolkata [ Images ] and Pune to take advantage of the vast opportunities available in other parts of the country and “it is their right to do so.”

Elaborating the steps to address the problems faced by students from North East, Chidambaram said DCP-level officers have designated as nodal officers to specifically address their problems.

“Besides, a North East Connect Cell, headed by a joint secretary-level officer has been formed…to serve as a coordination point with resident commissioners of 8 North Eastern States,” he added

India Edging Maoists From Mineral-Laden Land, Chidambaram Says


Palaniappan Chidambaram (1)

Image via Wikipedia

Indian police for years have abused civilians in the fight against the Maoists, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch. While India’s Supreme Court in October ordered an independent probe into allegations that police in Chhattisgarh tortured and sexually assaulted a schoolteacher whom they accused of links to the rebels, “authorities have not initiated any inquiry or criminal action against the police officers implicated,” Human Rights Watch said in a Jan. 31 statement.

February 01, 2012, 1:52 PM EST

By James Rupert and Bibhudatta Pradhan

Feb. 2 (Bloomberg) — India is winning command over mineral-rich areas where Maoist guerrilla attacks deter billions of dollars in potential investment, Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram said, one year after he declared the conflict deadlocked.

“Albeit slowly, we are gaining control of the situation,” reversing Maoist advances that began after 2004, Chidambaram said in a 40-minute interview on counter-terrorism, Pakistan and prospects for expanding foreign investment in India’s economy. “The earlier estimate that in three to four years we will be able to gain ascendancy was an optimistic estimate,” he said. “That I am willing to concede.”

Chidambaram told a conference in 2009 that reinforced police battalions in heavily forested Maoist enclaves would eliminate a rebel-run zone whose area is as big as Portugal. On Feb. 1 last year, he described “a kind of stalemate” in the insurgency, which blocks mining of bauxite, iron and other minerals. Execution Noble Ltd., a London-based financial services company, said in 2010 that the region had the potential to draw $80 billion of investment.

The minister declined to specify what period now may be needed to defeat the rebels beyond saying “it will take a few more years.” He spoke in his high-ceilinged office in the red sandstone secretariat built a century ago as the seat of Britain’s colonial government.

Chidambaram, 66, a lawyer and Harvard Business School graduate from India’s southern state of Tamil Nadu, is one of the most prominent members of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s cabinet.

Record Growth

As finance minister from 2004 until 2008, Chidambaram oversaw record economic growth that averaged 8.5 percent a year. Singh moved him to the Home Ministry amid public anger over the 2008 attack on Mumbai by 10 Pakistani guerrillas that killed 166 people.

Read more here

UIDAI invades privacy, endangers security


In a letter to the prime minister, Union home minister P Chidambaram is reported to have demanded that the Planning Commission be instructed to bring a note to the Cabinet on the status of the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) so that there is clarity over which agency — the Registrar-General of India (RGI) or the UIDAI — will carry on with the task of capturing the biometric data of the population. The letter expresses unhappiness over media reports over turf wars between the UIDAI, which comes under the nodal authority of the Planning Commission, and the RGI under the home ministry. The crux of the issue is the security of the biometric data being collected by the two agencies. While the RGI collects data through officials visiting homes, the UIDAI collects it through private agencies, who ask people to come over to their collection centres.

This is a much more important issue than the dispute over jurisdiction and, though belatedly, Chidambaram has raised the right issue. Only last month, the parliamentary standing committee on finance had rejected the National Identification Authority of India (NIDAI) Bill, 2010 — which was supposed to provide the legal basis to the UIDAI — raising questions about the ethics, feasibility and purpose of the project as well as its legality. The committee said the UID scheme was “built up on untested, unreliable technology and several assumptions” and large-scale involvement of private agencies in collection of biometric data about the citizens of India was not only unconstitutional but a threat to national security.

In the backdrop of the parliamentary committee’s severe indictment, further continuance of the scheme is untenable. That such an ambitious project with wider implications for the citizen’s right to privacy and national security was launched without Parliament’s approval shows the UPA government’s utter disregard for law and democratic traditions. The government should scrap this scheme, which was initiated without legislative sanction, feasibility study and cost-benefit analysis.

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