oppn parties India Vindicated on Food Security

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  • For the first time in history, Darjeeling loses first flush tea due to suspension of garden work for Covid-19 outbreak
  • Supreme Court asks journalists to be responsible and publish only the official version of news after it was brought to its notice that migrant exodus started after the 'fake' news that the lockdown will be extended to three months
  • Small saving rates slashed by the government by 140 basis points
  • The Centre says that the exodus of the migrants was stopped to save villages and prevent community transmission
  • The Centre says March 31 will remain the closing date for FY 2019-2020 and no change will be made for Covid-19 disruption
  • Tablighi Jamaat fiasco puts several states on high alert, attendees and their contacts being traced
  • Stock markets recover on the last day of the financial year, but the sentiment remains weak
  • The government says Covid-19 is still in local transmission stage in India
  • Government scotches rumours of extending the lockdown beyond April14. Says no such plan
  • Centre asks states to give shelter and food to migrant workers to stop them from taking to the streets
  • RBI cuts repo rate by 75 bps, the steepest in 10 years
  • Centre writes to states regarding laxity in monitoring people who had arrived from abroad between January and March
  • Kerala reports a spurt in new cases
  • With 124 fresh cases on Friday, the number of reported cases in India stand at 854
  • Five of a family, including a 9-month-old-baby test positive for Covid-19 in Nadia district in West Bengal on Friday
Total count stands ar 3082 as India records 16 Covid-19 deaths, the highest in a single day
oppn parties
India Vindicated on Food Security

By Sunil Garodia
First publised on 2014-11-15 18:57:28

About the Author

Sunil Garodia Editor-in-Chief of indiacommentary.com. Current Affairs analyst and political commentator. Writes for a number of publications.
When India had remained rigid on its stand on food security, risking the trade agreements of the WTO, most commentators had riled the government for jeopardizing international agreements that would have lowered tariffs and brought down barriers to facilitate easier and freer trade across borders. But they had failed to understand that for India, freer trade without food security for its teeming millions would have been meaningless on the one hand and would have only strengthened the position of the developed countries on the other. Now, as the US supports Indiaâ€â"¢s stand on food security, India stands vindicated. The US endorsement of Indiaâ€â"¢s position also means that a big hurdle before the implementation of new trade laws will be removed and we can hope for a freer and more equitable trade between nations.

The Indian stand was not aimed at preventing trade agreements. It was just an attempt to provide food security to its poor. In doing so, India also highlighted the injustice in allowing just 10% of food output to be kept as buffer stock each year and that too calculated with the base as 1986-88, as it has to feed its poor who are more than 600 million in number at a conservative estimate. To expect India to manage such a herculean task with just 10% of food output was impossible, and now the US has realized this and endorsed Indiaâ€â"¢s stand.

Despite not having to fight hunger and malnutrition in their countries, the developed Western nations have been providing huge subsidies to their farm sectors, making ‘fat catsâ€â"¢ (as one observer put it) of its big farmers. The farm lobby is very strong in these nations and it usually has its way in farm policymaking. Hence, just the US has paid $ 256 billion in farm, disaster and crop insurance subsidies since 1995 (Source: EWG Farm Subsidy Database). This acts as an incentive for massive surplus production which then finds its way as cheap exports to developing countries, hitting their farmers.

In contrast, what India is trying to do is to stockpile foodstuff in order to make them available at low rates to its poor people. With rural incomes not rising, the prospect of hunger and malnutrition is real. The Food Security Bill was drafted for this reason. While it is no oneâ€â"¢s case to subsidize any sector indefinitely, a bridge arrangement to provide succor to empty stomachs needs to be in place till employment opportunities are available and incomes have risen sufficiently for the poor people to buy their own food at market prices. The NDA government has repeatedly said that it believes in raising incomes to make people live with dignity instead of doles.

The thrust of Western argument is that with the implementation of all the other agreements under the Bali declaration, free trade and easier movement of goods will mean that world incomes will go up substantially. Hence, they say, there will be no need to stockpile food grains or provide subsidies. But it has been seen that what the Western nations mean by free trade and easier movement of goods is often a one-way street – goods move from their countries to developing nations, to the detriment of the latterâ€â"¢s agricultural and industrial sectors. They keep high tariff and non-tariff barriers to protect their own farm sector, but expect developing countries to bring them down. They had put on blinkers and did not want to see Indiaâ€â"¢s point of view. The latest US position is a refreshing change and will lead to a better environment for future talks.