One of the most striking failures of the Congress-led government has been the inability to check the persistent rise in prices of food and other essential commodities and ensure food security for our people. Shamefully, the UPA government is now claiming great success in controlling inflation, at a time when the entire global economy is spiraling rapidly into recession. Inflation in prices of food articles are 8% and foodgrains are 11% higher than a year ago, respectively. At the retail level in Delhi between March 2008 and March 2009 sugar went up by 47 per cent, tur by 31 per cent and onions by a whopping 111 per cent. All this makes the slogan of Jai Ho sound hollow. 

Endemic hunger continues to afflict a large proportion of the Indian population. The International Food Policy Research Institute ranks India 66 out of the 88 developing countries. This is not surprising, since latest NSS data show that 76 per cent of the total population has inadequate calorie and food consumption. More than half of India’s women and three-quarters of children are anaemic and one in every three adult Indian has chronic energy deficiency. 

The obvious strategy to tackle hunger and malnutrition was to universalize and strengthen the Public Distribution System, expand the Anna Antodaya Yojana, act firmly against hoarders and black-marketers, ban futures trading in essential items and food, etc. But the UPA government did the exact opposite through its ill-conceived neo-liberal food policy, which favoured agribusiness and private traders, belying its promises to the aam aadmi. 

1.It is shameful that today, even as the Government’s granaries are overflowing with a surplus stockholding 84 per cent above buffer norms, kitchens of vast sections of our people remain empty.

2.The Government cut allocations of food grains to the States by 325 lakh tones or by 73.4 per cent between 2006 and 2008, mainly under the APL category.

3.Furthermore, there has been a cut in household quota for APL from 35 kg per family per month to 20 kg.

4.It continued the policy of dividing and excluding the poor through targeting: The Targeted PDS scheme in a predominantly poor country like India means demarcating not between the rich and the poor, but between different categories of the poor at ridiculous destitution levels of Rs 11.80 per person per day for rural and Rs. 17.80 per person per day.

5.Tardy expansion in Anna Antodaya Yojana beneficiaries by an average of just 10 lakhs a year

6.Concerted attempt to increase prices of foodgrain in the public distribution system, prevented by the CPI(M)

7.Despite production not declining in this period, the Government jeopardized self-reliance in food security by its import of 5.5 million tonnes of poor quality contaminated wheat from big agri-business and traders in 2006 and 2007 at twice the price it was prepared to pay to Indian farmers.

8.Pandering to the speculation and hoarding by big traders and global and national agri-business, Parliamentary Committee’s recommendation to ban future trading in agricultural commodities.

9.Cut down on food subsidies when a big increase was required. During the UPA regime (2004-2009) the average share for food security allocation on all Programmes has stayed below 1 % of GDP (current prices), at a time when 16 countries increased their subsidies from near zero to up to 2.7 per cent of GDP as a response to higher food prices.

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