Target: Sansad, or the Parliament of India
Goal: Make sure that foods at subsidized prices are actually delivered to the indigent people who need them
While the Indian parliament deserves praise for the passage of the National Food Security Bill, a new law expanding the population’s access to subsidized low-cost grains that they can afford, its implementation needs to be changed to make sure the allocated provisions actually reach the intended beneficiaries. The law intends to save 800 million Indians – about two-thirds of the population – from hunger, but it will not succeed unless its current ineffective distribution system is changed.
As it currently stands, forty percent of the intended food supplies are lost. One of the main reasons for the disappearance of grains such as rice and wheat is their diversion to sales on the black market. Since the private shops that are supposed to offer government-subsidized rations to poor people receive low commissions per sale, they resell some of their stock to the black market to supplement their income. As a result, shop visitors who come to claim their daily subsidized portion of grains come away empty-handed because the inventory has been depleted.
The Indian government can take measures to make sure that beneficiaries do not have to go hungry because their subsidized low-cost grains have been illegally resold. The state of Chhattisgarh has already shown the way with its effective methods of reducing the theft of government-allocated rations; the state’s implementation of the subsidized foods delivery system should be adopted on the federal level. Chhattisgarh has managed to make sure that no food supplies are diverted by shifting their distribution away from profit-seeking private sellers to community organizations such as village councils, women’s self-help groups, and cooperative societies.
As the leaders and members of community organizations tend to be socially embedded in their neighborhoods and personally connected to residents, they are more likely to have a vested interest in serving the beneficiaries’ needs and less likely to sell the government-allocated rations for their own benefit. The incentive to resell wouldn’t be so pressing anyhow since the state has made the distributors’ work more profitable by significantly increasing the sales commissions from what the federal government has mandated (from 8 to 45 rupees per 100 kg of sales.) Finally, Chhattisgarh also deters theft by means of computer tracking — the use of databases to monitor inventory levels enables the government to detect the suspicious reduction of stocks that could be traced back to pilfering.
Sign this petition to encourage the Indian government to entrust community organizations with the distribution of subsidized foods for the poor, increase the sales commissions to discourage private profit seeking on the black market, and to use databases to keep track of the delivered inventory to shops so that the theft of supplies could be more easily discovered.
Dear Members of the Indian Parliament,
The National Food Security Bill that you have passed needs to be modified so that the low-price subsidized grains make it into the hands of the people they are intended for and are not resold on the black market. It is terrible to see the intent of a law seeking to eliminate hunger subverted by an efficient distribution system. Every time a distributor sells one of the cheap rations meant for an indigent family, parents will come home empty-handed with no meal to offer to their malnourished children.
That’s why it is so crucial that the distributors are trustworthy — the fate of the hungry lies in their hands and what they do with the supplies could mean the difference between the sickness and health, the life and death of a child. That’s why the government should entrust the distribution of these subsidized foods to community organizations such as village councils, women’s self-help groups, or cooperative societies. It is the people who have already committed themselves to the mission of looking after the well-being of their fellow citizens who will be the best at responsibly fulfilling the government’s critical mission of providing food to the hungry.
And of course, the government will also succeed in curbing the temptation to pilfer by showing respect to the distributors through an increase of their commissions. The best way to make sure that distributors — whether community organizations or private shop owners – do not cheat the hungry of their rations is by adequately rewarding their work and making sure that they don’t go hungry themselves.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Terra Magazine at Oregon State University via oregonstate.edu