The government’s gastronomic predilections are noteworthy. First, it wanted to ensure that the poor could get food at low prices. Now, it wants to order things such that others don’t go about wasting precious food even as millions in the country go hungry or malnourished. Mint reported on Tuesday that the government is considering legislation to reduce the wastage of food at what K.V. Thomas, minister for food, consumer affairs and public distribution system, called “luxurious marriages and other social events”.
This is not to doubt the government’s benevolent conscience. Wastage of food is, well, wastage—a loss of value that could have been put to better use elsewhere. But that doesn’t make it coterminous with the right to food, or for that matter practical. For one, any such legislation will be supremely difficult to implement (imagine the government’s hand at every social event in every corner of the country). Events far bigger than weddings have slipped through the government’s fingers. Besides, even if a framework were to be somehow put in place, there is no certainty that the food thus saved will have any notable effect on the country’s food economy.
At a larger level, the problem is with increasing hubris in the government. A state that takes up the responsibility to mete and dole implicitly assumes the right to take away. Such overreach makes the government clunky and inefficient—the result is its inability to plug the numerous leaks and pilferages that plague its public transfer programmes. In failing to implement its ambitions, it also fails to justify them.
Concerns about food in India span a gamut of complex problems, from agricultural seeds and farming methods to storage and distribution of foodgrains. The government last year acknowledged that as much as Rs58,000 crore worth of food items are wasted every year due to poor or no storage. These should be more pressing problems than the wastage of food at weddings and other events. Unfortunately, the government seems to have more on its plate than it can manage.
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