Timeline of Food Security Bill
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Everything else can wait, but not agriculture” – Jawaharlal Nehru (1947)

After having its image badly dented by the humongous scams and declining growth rates, Congress led UPA has trying to push through the Food Security Bill.

  • May 2004: UPA wins 2004 elections

  • Nov 2004: PM forms National Commission for Farmers(NCF) under MS Swaminathan. The very first point in the terms of reference of NCF said “To work out a comprehensive medium-term strategy for food and nutrition security in the country in order to move towards the goal of universal food security over time

  • Oct 2006: NCF submits five reports between 2004 and Oct 2006. It makes several recommendations, some of the those are mentioned below:

  1. Lack of Soil Testing facilities is a major handicap. National Network of Advanced Soil Testing Laboratories is recommended.

  2. Highest priority should be given to augmenting water availability by vigorously promoting rainwater harvesting; restoring water bodies and a million wells recharge programs.

  3. Fifty thousand Farm Schools should be established in the fields of farmer-achievers.

  • No action is taken by UPA on the recommendations.

  • Feb 2008: Congress brings out Farm loan waiver with an eye on 2009 elections

  • 2009: On the eve of elections, Congress promises Food Security Act in its manifesto

  • July 2013: After 9 years of stating its goal, after 7 years of the NCF report, after 4 years of promising it in its manifesto, and after misruling India for nearly 60 of the 65 years, Congress has pushed Food Security as an ordinance.

  • In the last 7 years, Congress has not done anything towards implementing the recommendations of the Commission led by MS Swaminathan.

  • Costs of agriculture during the same period has gone enormously thanks to NREGA, increase in diesel and fertilizer prices. Correspondingly MSP has not been increased directly affecting the margins of the farmer. The number of farmer suicides during the same period has grown immensely.

  • MS Swaminathan had recommended “Minimum Support Price should ‘Costs plus minimum of 50% profit’.

    During the same period, agriculture has prospered in some states:

  • Gujarat has seen an agricultural growth rate of 10% while MP has seen a growth rate of 18%

  • The annual Krishi Mahotsava in Gujarat has played a major role in achieving this. Farmers have been given Soil Health cards and also imparted modern farming techniques

  • Farmers in the state are actively using drip irrigation

  • Agricultural Universities have also been opened.

  • Since 2001, more than 600,000 water structures have been created, which included 100,000 check dams (each cost nearly Rs 15 lakh). Rainwater harvesting and recharging of water sources have also helped improve the levels of ground water.

  • Madhya Pradesh has also followed similar route and is witnessed an 18% agricultural growth in 2011-12 and 13% in 2012-13.

  • Interlinking of rivers project initially announced by Former PM Vajpayee has been actively pursued by MP Chief Minister

  • Over a period of only six years, the irrigation facility had been increased from 7 lakh hectares to 26 lakh hectares which is a record in the country.

  • Madhya Pradesh has now surpassed Haryana in grain production and is now third after UP and Punjab.

    Unanswered Questions:

  • Can Congress’s Food Security Act really work or is it just another hollow promise just like NREGA which has not been able to provide 100 days of employment.

  • Common sense says Food Security can happen only when we have adequate food production. Has even a single newspaper or channel tried to assess the progress of UPA on the implementation of the recommendations of MS Swaminathan?

  • BJP leader Yashwant Sinha pointed out, “Once implemented, FSB will require a total procurement of 76.3 million tonnes of foodgrains every year. You should not forget that the average annual procurement of wheat and rice during 2000-01 to 2010-11 has been 45.05 million tonnes, with the highest procurement of 73 million tonnes in 2011-12. So, the requirement is much more than our best procurement. This is when agriculture production is rising year after year. This clearly indicates India will become a perennial food importer.

  • Impact on Farmers: MS Swaminathan had recommended MSP should “Cost plus 50% profit”. This is something that the UPA has not implemented. The current state of the economy doesn’t permits it either. So how will the government procures these gigantic amounts of foodgrains?

    • The likely answer is by doing what they have been doing in the last 9 years, by interfering the markets. Government has regularly banned exports of various agricultural commodities. Since agriculture commodities are perishable and most producers are small with lower working capitals, farmers are forced to settle for a lower price. Exports could have otherwise fetched higher prices.

    • These bans are anti-farmer. For instance, in 2012, Cane growers held a rally against the ban on sugar export.

    Sonia Gandhi’s Food Security Bill will most likely be over the graves of the millions of hard-working farmers of this country.

    Jai jawaan, Jai Kisaan” – Lal Bahadur Shastri (1965)

Image Courtesy- PardaPhash