The massive hidden costs of India’s food security act
India’s National Food Security Act is now a fait accompli. The United Progressive Alliance, desperate to maximise its electoral prospects, successfully ensured its passage through parliament in September. But the Act, with its exclusive focus on food grain and cereal availability, may well end up hurting the poor on two major counts. First, it will discourage much-needed diversification in the agricultural sector and aggravate the country’s shortage of proteins, dairy, fruits and vegetables, whose consumption would help redress malnourishment — the real problem India faces today. Second, the huge increase in centralised procurement of food grains will end up raising their market price, and the real poor, many of whom remain outside the leaky public distribution system, will suffer the consequences. But a more careful reading of the Act reveals other costs that will ultimately have to be borne by the aam aadmi, or average Indian citizen.