Our Battle Against Hunger

Our Battle Against Hunger Wed, 19 Mar 2014

Our Battle Against Hunger

The greatest gift one can give to mankind is selfless love and care for the poor and the hungry. For a government, providing people the Right to Food is not an act of charity, it's a fundamental responsibility.

Here at Congress, we take this responsibility to our nation's most vulnerable citizens very seriously.

If even a single Indian has to go hungry, it means our work is not done. It's our duty to bring all Indians access to food at prices they can afford. That's why we brought the National Food Security Act. Through this legislation, we have ensured that 81 crore of our people (67 per cent of our population) are now getting food grains at highly subsidised rates - rates that are more manageable for more people.

The Act is a phenomenal achievement by any standard and is among the largest social welfare schemes in the world. The beneficiaries of the National Food Security Act are getting wheat at Rs 2 per kg, rice at Rs 3 per kg, and coarse grain at Rs 1 per kg.

The Right to Food works to ensure that no Indian goes to sleep hungry and increases the general well being of a nation. It's essential to our progress and prosperity.

Our adversaries termed the legislation a "poll gimmick." They tried everything in their capacity to ensure that the Food Security Bill was not passed. They stooped to narrow-minded nitpicking. They claimed that the scheme was "unfeasible" and would be a "drain" on the national exchequer.

But that did not deter us. Our eyes were set on our goal. Our spirit was beautifully expressed by Congress President Sonia Gandhi who said, "The question is not whether we have enough resources or not and whether it would benefit the farmers or not. We have to arrange resources for it. We have to do it."

The opposition's argument that the Food Security Act would be a burden also lacked a valid basis. The strength of the legislation was not in spending more, but in spending more effectively.

Under the Food Security Act, the average subsidy being provided by the government is around Rs. 1,24,000 crore (for 62 million tonnes), which is only 1.2% of our GDP. Before the Food Security Act, we were already giving a 1 per cent food subsidy, but the Act made these efforts more effective by streamlining the distribution of food grains through the Public Distribution and cutting down losses.

Today, the percentage of households accessing food-grains from the PDS [EL1] has gone up from 28 per cent (2004-05) to 44 per cent (2011-12).

The Food Security Act is an incredible step forward, but our work continues. We will never stop our efforts to ensure no Indian goes to bed hungry.

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