Skip to main content

Activists, experts come together to criticize neo-liberal economists, favour "investment" in food security

By Our Representative
In a scathing attack on neoliberal economists, Prof Jagdish Bhagwati, Prof Arvind Panagariya, and Prof Surjit Bhalla, a high-level consultation by Gujarat-based activists and experts has said that the recent decision to include wide sections population under food security cannot be termed as a drain on budgetary resources. If Prof Hemant Shah, an economist, calculated that the “actual budgetary burden for food security will be not more than Rs 7 per capita per day”, senior activist Sejal Dand, Gujarat adviser to the Supreme Court-appointed national commissioner on food security, said, “Food security is an investment to ensure a better future of those who are go hungry.” The consultation was organized by Pathey, an Ahmedabad-based NGO specializing in budget analysis.
Shah said, “Tax collections in India are lopsided, though things have improved somewhat. While earlier the direct taxes were 20 per cent of the collection, now they are 40 per cent, which is less than western countries, where it is up to 80 per cent. Indirect taxes – under which even a below poverty person who buys up a bulb to light his house must pay tax – still form 60 per cent of the tax kitty.” He added, “There are about 3.3 crore persons pay taxes in India, but as many persons who must pay taxes do not do it. Hence, the collection is skewed.” He added, “While neo-liberals say that food security would add to the tax burden, why do they not speak about these issues?”
Dand wondered why is there no support to food security from the middle classes, especially in a “developed” state like Gujarat. “Food security is a tremendous success in Tamil Nadu, where community kitchens – called amma kitchens – are there in every village and city block. Here, anyone can have stomach full of idli or rice for just Rs 5 per plate. No one goes hungry. There is a strong tradition of providing food security in that state. With the right to food law, such a situation should prevail in every state.” In her estimate, it would not take more than Rs 5,000 crore investments to start such kitchens in each state.
Taking a different view of how food security can be funded, environmental expert Mahesh Pandya pointed out that there is an “urgent need” to link it with schemes like National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGS). He said, “One should link NREGS with producing nutritious crops, especially millets, which is neglected. NREGS should be used for preserving biodiversity. This way, it would be possible to have a socially-oriented budget without the need for searching funds elsewhere. Poor environment adversely affects the deprived sections. In Gujarat, for 12 years there are no new effluent treatment plants. Who suffers as a result? The poor.”
Prof Dilip Mavlankar, a public health expert, regretted that whether it is India or Gujarat, the allocation for health care is more for physical infrastructure and less for human resources. Giving the example of Sri Lanka and Sweden, he said, at both these places paramedical and medical staff, including nurses, work with meager building facilities. Instead of making pregnant women reach primary health centres, the antenatal health workers reach households. In fact, there no need is felt for such centres in Sri Lanka. Similarly, in Sweden, they do not spend money on separate colleges for nurses, paramedical staff and doctors. One building does all the training jobs.
“In India, the health care army is without bullets – they don’t even have medicine. There is no audit of functionality of medical equipment, no statistical analysis of the type of staff needed”, he said, adding, “You need to spare doctors for medical treatment. As for public health care management is concerned, it should be done by a specialized public health care cadre, which ought to be created.” He insisted, there should be about 10 per cent tax on those food items which have higher cholesterol level. This would discourage people to eat food items which have higher fat levels.
Mahender K Jethmalani, a senior activist and a budget analyst, regretted poor spending for the marginalized communities. Giving the specific example of Gujarat, he said, instead of seven per cent population, the allocation for Dalits is quite low. “Out of Rs 60,000 crore annual plan, Dalit allocation should be Rs 4,200 crore, while the actual allocation is just Rs 3,200 crore”, he said. Trupti Shah, another senior activist, wondered why the proposed investment for fighting violence against women in the country is just about Rs 450 crore even when modest estimates suggest it would require Rs 1,200 crore. She also regretted mere lip-service to gender budgeting.



Comments

TRENDING

Mystery around Gujarat PSU 'transfer' of Rs 250 crore to Canadian firm Karnalyte

By AK Luke, IAS (Retd)*
While returning from a Board meeting of the Oil India Limited (OIL) in Ahmedabad some time in 2012, two officers of the Gujarat State Fertilizers and Chemicals Ltd (GSFC), Nanavaty and Patel,  saw me off at the airport. They said they were proceeding to Canada in connection with a project GSFC had entered into with a company there. As we were running late, I hastily wished them the best.

Savarkar in Ahmedabad 'declared' two-nation theory in 1937, Jinnah followed 3 years later

By Our Representative
One of the top freedom fighters whom BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi revere the most, Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, was also a great supporter of the two nation theory for India, one for Hindus another for Muslims, claims a new expose on the man who is also known to be the original proponent of the concept of Hindutva.

Indians have made 119 nations their ‘karma bhumi’: US-based Hindu NGO tells Rupani

Counterview Desk
In a stinging letter to Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani, the US-based Hindus for Human Rights (HfHR), referring to the report citing his justification for the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) – that “while Muslims can choose any one of the 150 Islamic countries in the world (for residence), India is the only country for Hindus" – has said, he should remember, Hindus have made several countries, including USA, their home.

J&K continues to be haunted, as parts of India 'degenerate' into quasi-Kashmir situation

By Rajendran Narayanan*, Sandeep Pandey**
“Jab har saans mein bandook dikhe toh baccha kaise bekhauf rahe?” (How can a child be fearless when she sees a gun in every breath?) remarked Anwar, a gardener from Srinagar, when asked about the situation in Kashmir. On November 30, 2019, a walk through an iron gate in a quiet neighbourhood of Srinagar took us inside a public school. It was 11 am when typically every school is abuzz with activity. Not here though.

Tata Mundra's possible closure? Power ministry's 'pressure tactic' on consumer states

By Bharat Patel*
Tata power has announced to the Union Ministry of Power that Tata Power may be forced to stop operating  its imported coal-based Mundra Ultra-Mega Power Project (UMPP) after February, 2020. It is not only unfortunate but also criminal that irreversible damage has been caused to the fragile ecosystem of Mundra coast for a project that will have a running life of only seven years.

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam*
RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

Population control? 10% Indian couples want to delay next pregnancy, but fail

Counterview Desk
Shireen Jejeebhoy, director at Aksha Centre for Equity and Wellbeing, previously senior associate at the Population Council, India, argues that the debate on the country's population was fuelled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Independence Day address to the nation, where he drew attention to “concern” about the challenges posed by this ‘exploding’ population growth, needs to centre around the promotion of rights and education, instead of the language of explosion and the threat of coercion that this term implies.

Savarkar 'opposed' Bhagat Singh's, Netaji's dream of India, supported British war efforts

By Shamsul Islam*
In a shocking development, the student wing of the RSS put the busts of martyrs Bhagat Singh and Subhash Chandra Bose with Savarkar's on one pedestal at the University of Delhi late in the night on August 20, 2019. Bhagat Singh sacrificed his life for a socialist-democratic-secular republic and Netaji raised Azad Hind Fauj (INA) consisting of people of all religions and regions for armed liberation of India.

Kerala governor turned History Congress into political arena, 'insulted' Prof Irfan Habib

Counterview Desk
In a signed statement, office bearers of the Aligarh Society of History and Archaeology (ASHA), Prof Syed Ali Nadeem Rezavi (president), Prof Jabir Raza (vice-president), Prof Manvendra Kumar Pundhir (secretary) and Prof Farhat Hasan (joint secretary), have said that Kerala governor Arif Mohammad Khan had sought to insult veteran historian Prof Irfan Habib, 88, at the 80th session of the Indian History Congress, even as turning it into his “political arena”.