People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 31

July 05, 2012





UPA Govt’s Callous Insensitivity

Towards Food Security




AS the successful dharna called by the Left parties before the parliament at Jantar Mantar (with people’s participation much larger than the team Anna hunger strike next door, but deliberately underplayed by the corporate media) demanding food security through a universal public distribution system was going on, comes the announcement of this UPA-2 government that it has abandoned the Empowered Group of Ministers on Food Security.  This itself speaks volumes about this government’s callous inhuman insensitivity. 


Almost simultaneously came the statement by the union agricultural minister that the country and the people must be prepared to face a drought this year.  He said that the monsoon situation was not expected to improve in August this year.  Giving details, he said that the rainfall deficit in high agricultural production states like Punjab was 68 per cent and Haryana 70 per cent. Likewise the deficit in Rajasthan is 61 per cent, south Karnataka 47 per cent, central Maharashtra 38 per cent and 76 per cent in the Kutch and Saurashtra regions of Gujarat.  The official declaration that the situation is unlikely to improve has already impacted on the prices of essential commodities which during the last week of July soared.  Media reports that in Mumbai, the wholesale price of rice rose to Rs 32/kg, an increase of 18.5 per cent.  Likewise, wheat increased by 12.5 per cent, urad dal by 10.3 per cent, chana dal by 13.8 per cent, sugar by nearly 8 per cent and potatoes by 10 per cent.  The situation would be worse with the prices of edible oils likely to soar higher.  Around 60 per cent of India’s edible oil consumption comes from imports. With international prices rising and India’s rupee value declining, the cost of import of edible oils is going to be much higher. 


This comes at a time when the government is saddled with excess food stocks.  The central government complains that the states are not lifting 10 million tons of wheat to be supplied through open market sale.  The state governments, on the other hand, justifiably are asking these foodgrains to be given to them at BPL prices and not open market prices.  At the expense of making our people go hungry, the central government is prepared to allow these foodgrains to rot rather than releasing them at BPL prices. 


This situation is leading to an increase in hoarding of foodgrains and other essential commodities in anticipation of higher prices in the future.  This has also led to a spurt in speculative trading in essential commodities.  According to Commodity Exchange data, between April and June 2012, the value of trade in all agricultural commodities reached a staggering Rs 5,01,866.18 crores.  Such high level of speculative trading is leading to a higher rise in the prices of all essential commodities. In order to control this run-away price rise, it is essential that the government must immediately stop the exports of essential commodities and ban speculative forward/futures trading in agricultural commodities. 


That the government refuses to do this is yet another instance of its callousness and indifferent attitude towards people’s livelihood.  Hence, it is absolutely imperative that popular pressure must be mounted further on the government to ensure food security for all our people.  This five-day dharna called by the Left parties must be followed up by stronger and more powerful movements in the future. 


With a drought situation appearing imminent and food prices on fire, it is clear that the burdens on our people will severely escalate.  Under these circumstances, it is only the strength of popular people’s movement that can compel this UPA-2 government to reverse its disastrous policies. 


Food security of our people can only be achieved by providing every household in the country (APL + BPL) with 35 kg of foodgrains at a maximum of Rs 2/kg through a universal public distribution system. 


(July 31, 2012)