Mr Devinder Sharma, noted food and trade policy analyst
Q: What is your opinion on FS bill that is said to critical for reaching out to deprived sections and ensuring food for all? ? What will be its impact on agriculture system?
The path to hell is always paved with good intentions. The Food Security bill is no exception. Although I agree that there is an urgent need to reach out to the deprived population, but what is more important is to ensure that the poor and hungry are able to fish for food rather than depend upon doles. Unfortunately, the people who designed the bill looked at only the distribution aspects, on how to reach food to the hungry millions. Where they missed out is the strong linkage food security has with agriculture. This disconnect with sustainable agriculture will add on to the hungry population in the years to come. On the one hand economic policies aim at pushing farmers out of agriculture, and on the other food security partially s being ensured through legal entitlements. It will therefore increase dependence on food imports in the years to come to meet the legal entitlements.
Take the case of Karnataka. It has launched a Re 1/kg rice scheme. newspaper reports tell us that Karnataka is buying rice from Chhatisgarh at about Rs 27/kg to distribute it to the hungry at Re 1/Kg. In my understanding this is not the right approach. The effort should have been to make agriculture in Karnataka profitable enough so as to increase production within the State. What Karnataka needs is a food security system based on local production, local procurement and local distribution. Karnataka can't go on creating land banks, displacing farmers and then importing food.
At the national level, land acquisition policies, encouraging commercial farming, privatising water resources, aggressive signing of Free Trade Agreements inviting flood of imports etc. have all a strong bearing on food security. By ignoring the inter-sectoral linkages, the bill has simply been designed keeping in mind the coming elections. It is a Food-for-Vote programme.
Q: Can Indian agriculture biotechnology companies/industry play a part in making its implementation a success? (through increased production/any other suggestion).