Sensex and cronyism

Sensex and cronyism

I read with interest the article by Praveen Chakravarty (“How crony is crony capitalism?"Mint, 22 February). For a developing country such as India that has one of the highest concentration of poor persons in the world, any “loot" is patently unfair to our poor people and cannot be explained away by analysis based on trends in the sensex. Even such statistical analysis needs to consider the flight of illicit wealth from the country which could have taken place in many ways before a conclusion can be reached that enterprise in its “purest" form has dominated India’s growth story. Much work needs to be done to understand how this process has occurred before any meaningful conclusions can be drawn in this matter.

— Sudhir Kapadia

A number of articles have appeared in Mint over the past month on hunger, the public distribution system (PDS), food subsidy and on the debate around the food security Bill draft of the National Advisory Council (NAC). Reading through all that has been written, I am struck by how all the solutions suggested have ignored some possibilities which are often discussed in the development sector:

1. A community-focused food security solution: A lot of information is available on food-insecure communities. It is evident from the debates that this information is being continuously ignored. There are administrative and political mechanisms available to improve the delivery of food to alleviate hunger, improve nutrition and make such communities less food-insecure over time. The district administration, the panchayat system, and non-governmental organizations are working in such communities. How much would it take to compile a list of the most food-insecure communities, analyse them and find solutions appropriate to them, depending on the local context and challenges of supply chain management? I would imagine that the government is capable of such an effort. 

2. Replication of what has worked well: There seems to be a singular lack of will to force discussion on what it would take to replicate, say, the Chhattisgarh experience of successfully turning around the PDS in other states. A government that has the will to go in for a solution such as the UID system must do the same for something which is of much greater, and immediate, relevance to hungry and malnourished people. The same goes for the successful implementation of the mid-day meal and Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) programmes in Tamil Nadu. What would it take for the NAC—which though aligned to the coalition in power, should be apolitical if it truly cares for the poor—to move the debate beyond Centre vs state and help this process?

3. Simple, operational analysis of the pain areas in supply chain management within the PDS to find solutions. I am sure it is widely known that decisions to lease out PDS godowns for liquor storage, leaving foodgrains to rot in the open, are operational failures and do not require fancy technology to fix. Is there a concerted effort at all in the Central government to look into logistics and supply chain management with the PDS, as also the ICDS and other health schemes (it is widely known that there are huge imbalances in medical supplies and large wastage due to imbalances in stocking)? Why does this never figure in discussions?

As Himanshu has pointed out in “Food or cash: the subsidy conundrum" (Mint, 2 March) simply doing more of the same is not going to work. Substituting cash for food on a national scale could prove disastrous because those who pilfer food now can pilfer money. We will discover scandals after a while, with no way of finding who took the loot.  

It will be a good idea to stop all fresh commitment of funds for PDS and food security solutions to force fresh thinking.

— V.S. Gurumani