A fiasco over food

A fiasco over food

This refers to your editorial “A food security nightmare" (Mint, 7 April). The National Food Security Bill is nothing but robbing Peter to pay Paul. What is the security the government can offer if there is little food supply? Where will the funds come from? Will the Centre levy taxes and import foodgrains? That money would be better spent on research on crop productivity, imparting skill to farmers on drip irrigation and soil management, and providing better weather information. NREGS has a case for existence until the economy revives fully. But it should not be equated with the right to food. Better teach people how to fish rather than dole out stale fish every day.

—Chandru Badrinarayanan

This refers to your editorial “Pricking the Ulip bubble" (Mint, 12 April). There is no doubt that unit-linked insurance products (Ulips) are being mis-sold. When we know that almost 70% of new business premium comes from Ulips for these insurance companies, they have some explaining to do and reason to worry.

The Securities and Exchange Board of India is absolutely right in asking why action should not be taken against these companies when they are selling investment products that are market-linked without the regulator’s permission.

A huge amount of Ulips’ premium in the first three years goes as commission to the insurer. This is a product that is never clearly and correctly explained to the investor. Data presented in your editorial that Rs1 trillion worth of policies lapsed in 2008-09 proves that insurance companies and agents are mis-selling this product and taking customers for a ride just for their own benefit. It is to be clearly understood that insurance and investment are two different things that should not be mixed at any cost.

—Bal Govind

This is in reference to the opinion article “Being smart about electricity" (Mint, 7 April). I agree that a smart grid requires huge capital investment, and it should be made with caution. I also agree that the problem of electricity theft and meter tampering cannot be directly solved by using smart grid technology. But technology is always an enabler. It rarely helps directly.

Remote connection and disconnection and energy accounting at the micro level are two important functionalities of the smart grid design for developing countries such as India. They will help address problems of billing, collection and reduction of other commercial losses. That is why drivers for smart grids in developing countries are more intense than those in developed ones.

But it will be a mistake to do a cost benefit analysis for a smart grid by considering the benefits in the power sector alone. If we do not consider the cost of externalities, we are likely to miss the smart grid bus.

I think we should learn from past mistakes. One of the reasons for the late promotion of renewable energy sources, particularly solar, was not considering the cost of externalities while determining the cost of electricity generation from such sources.

India is uniquely poised to take advantage of the smart grid technology. It has intense drivers, a robust communication infrastructure, and a strong technology base. Large technology providers are keen to help India in developing a smart grid. A policy framework supported by an enabling regulatory environment will help start the movement. This may even surpass India’s information technology advantage.

—Rakesh Kumar Goyal


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