Research scholar at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences
Swati Narayan is currently a visiting research scholar at the London School of Economics and Political Science from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. For more information, please see swatinarayan.info
The last day of September was the final deadline set by the central government to implement the National Food Security Act (NFSA). On paper, after seven earlier postponements, the Jharkhand government crossed this milestone by a whisker. This ambitious food law promises two of every three Indians subsidised food grains all through the year. In Jharkhand 86% of the rural population is legally entitled. But the ground reality of pervasive hunger in the drought-affected districts of a state with the second highest levels of malnutrition continues to be bleak.
It is more than a tad surprising that of the only two cities that the Food Ministry chose to conduct "pilots" to replace the public distribution system's (PDS) subsidized foodgrains with cash - this affluent former French colony is one. Bafflingly, the über planned Chandigarh designed by Le Corbusier is the other. But does it make any sense to test the replicability of cash transfers, across the expanse of India, only in the best-case scenario?
The BJP has clarified that it will be rejecting the Shanta Kumar panel's proposal to cut food security coverage, but the waters are still muddy. There have been no clarifications on the status of other big-ticket suggestions of the report such as almost fourfold increase in the price of foodgrains.