Shanta Kumar Committee

The recently released Shanta Kumar Committee report on issues related to procurement, storage and distribution of food grains in India is deeply flawed and runs contrary to the aim of achieving the MDGs. Critically analyse. (200 Words)

In spite of the reduction of malnourishment to move close towards the MDG goal of eradicating hunger through India’s food security schemes like ICDS, PDS, etc., it is still home to the largest malnourished population in the world. Further adding to the worry is the recommendation of Shanta Kumar Committee like-
  1. Restructuring the NFSA by decreasing its coverage from 67 per cent of population to about 40 per cent population. When the coverage is relatively broad, the collective pressure on the system will be even greater and it serves the goal of avoiding exclusion errors as the households “below the poverty line” are more or less intractable. Further, the official poverty line is abysmally low.
  1. Doubling the prices at which food grains are to be sold by linking the price to the MSP and allowing the free play of market forces in procurement and storage of food grains. When issue prices are low, it would attract the poor all the more, because PDS entitlements will be worth more to them. Also linking with the market forces will adversely affect the poor more and may add to the inflation.
  1. Delaying the implementation of the act in states that have not achieved end-to-end computerization may lead to delay in achieving the goal.
  1. Moving towards cash transfers instead of distributing subsidized grain in long run might pose problem if the cash is not used for the intended purpose of fighting hunger.
Though the recommendation on improving the storage and distribution facilities can help in reducing leakages, a comprehensive approach considering the interests of all sections of the society with greater focus on the poor should be taken to fight hunger and poverty.
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