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Staples too precious to be afforded by a citizen

Delhi, Mon, 07 May 2007 Sadiq Ali

May 05: Once being the bowl overfilled with the dividends of green revolution, India is now extending the bowl towards other countries to fulfill its food requirements.

On April 30, the Government of India issued a tender to import one million tonnes of wheat. This is the second year in a row that this has happened. The Country is losing its place as one of the leading producers of food items. After decades of self-reliance, India's bowl is now stretched out once again towards the rest of the world. And this time it is not sure if we can get what we need for love or money. The country's hard-earned food security is in danger of vanishing as the Congress led United Progressive Alliance government fiddles with quotas and nuclear deals rather than concentrate on daal-roti.

The citizens are well aware about the ‘pressing’ engagements of Union Cabinet pursuing a nuclear deal with the United States for instance. But can they devote a little of their time and see ahead of the staple of the hapless people, so that it might not affect their pursuance to that extent?

At the beginning of April, wheat was trading at US $4.12 a bushel. By April 30, when our ‘dedicated’ union ministry finally realized the danger, the price of wheat had risen to US $4.9555 a bushel that is millions of dollars extra. Who will take up the responsibility - the politicians, the tax payer, and that too for the inefficiency of the government? Even after this scandalous act the government of India may be doing too little at this eleventh hour. Can Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs explain why they had to wait until mid-April to approve of imports?

In 2006, India was forced to import 5.5 million tonnes of wheat. Then prices rose dramatically hitting individual budgets of “hungry� Indians. Comparing this with present proposed import, this time it is very less, just less than one-fifth of last year. Last month, union Agriculture and Food Minister, Sharad Pawar, spoke of importing 300,000 tons to meet any shortfall and they have ordered triple the amount, and clarifies that something is wrong.

Among major exporters of wheat like United States, Canada, Australia and China, wheat production has affected drastically, which will affect the global prices directly. India bought wheat in 2006 at an average price of US $205 per ton. In 2007, that price will be at least US $220 per ton; it may even be as high as US $240 per ton. Imagine the cascading effect of prices on your purse.

Union government seems to be ignorant of the facts, which United Nations World Food Programme knows. About India they have recorded: Nearly 50 percent of the world's hungry live in India, a low-income, food-deficit country. Around 35 percent of India's population, which is 350 million - are considered food-insecure, consuming less than 80 percent of minimum energy requirements. Nutritional and health indicators are extremely low. More than half of the children under five are moderately or severely malnourished, or suffer from stunting.

Can anybody among the cabinet of the great economist and Prime Minister come forward to explain how we can expect same people to buy staple foods at that price. They have to answer, sooner or later; they should.

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August 8, 2007 at 12:00 AM

ur article rightly brings out the one sided approach that our govt. is following and the wheat scarcity that we are facing today is just a manifestation of the long due and oft warned agrarian crisis.Nobody cared then but if not taken care of even now,then this is the starting of very difficult days for this country.



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