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India should strengthen its public distribution system to reduce food scarcity

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of United Nations has recently issued a report which reveals that currently there are 75 million (7.5 crore) people in the world who have fallen victim to famine and if the current crisis of price rise persists this count may reach the total of 920.25 million (92.25 crore).

India too is facing the same harsh situations where poorest of the poor of our country have to go to bed hungry. But at this crucial time when the country expects some stringent steps from the government's side, it is defending itself by saying that food crisis is a global problem which has already struck over 30 countries, most of which have witnessed food riots. It is not interested in finding and disclosing the root cause of this havoc

The FAO report further says that in 2007-08 there has been a 52% increase in the price of grains and that of fertilizers has doubled. In India, the retail price of many food commodities have seen a sharp rise in the past six months- pushing the inflation level around 12 at the end of September. Experts have cited various reasons behind this food crisis like increasing population, growing inclination towards bio-diesel crops, weakening of US currency, frequent natural calamities. Even the US president blamed Indians of eating more due to growing purchasing power. But in Indian context the pro market biased policies of the government and "planned weakening" of Public Distribution System (PDS) to benefit corporate sector are responsible for food crisis. Though the signs of the food and agricultural crisis were noticed by the government in its early stage but it continued with its neo liberal policies to benefit corporate sector. All this liberalization has been done under the pressure of US and World Bank who have been constantly pressurizing India to break its tariff walls and open its market for wheat import. It was due to their influence only that India became a wheat importer from wheat exporter. All this was done to benefit major grain corporate companies like Glencore, Cargill India and the Australian Wheat Board. This imported wheat was unaffordable for the poor people of India.

In spite of rising inflation and panic regarding food availability our government still believes that to sustain in world economy we need investment and support of corporate companies. The Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister advocates the role of corporate sector in agriculture and says that activities other than food grain production like commercial crops, horticulture etc. have contributed most to agricultural GDP. The council recommends removal of subsidies related to grain procurement and Public Distribution System, making more room for the private sector in agriculture and promoting contract farming. These recommendations were made as per the wishes of US and World Bank who have asked India to shift from subsidy based agro-economy to more diversified agriculture sector so as to allow corporate companies to enter this sector.

To give entry to various giant grain corporations, the Indian government slowly and systematically weakened its Public Distribution System (PDS) by slowing down grain procurement, especially wheat. Taking advantage of this situation Multi National Companies like Glencore, Cargill India, the Australian Wheat Board, Indian companies like ITC and Adani group procured 30 lakh tones of wheat as compared to the government's 9.2 million between 2005-07. Due to this reduced procurement by public sector, a number of families which comes under Below Poverty Line (BPL) and collect subsidized rations from Fair Price Shops were devoid of their bread. The cost of wheat decided by corporate companies is far away from their purchasing power. This disrupted the supply and demand ratio and food insecurity prevailed in the country.

FAO's Assistant Director General Hafez Ghanem has emphasized on two important points. First, to make available grains for poor countries of the world. Second, to encourage small scale farmers to improve crop productivity. Now, it's the high time when the Indian government should also realize that those small scale farmers, who are the worst sufferer of liberal agro-economy, can be made a key to the solution of food crisis. The agricultural sector of India is mainly covered by small and marginal farmers, so our government should promote small scale agriculture. Besides, the agriculture sector should be solely covered by the public sector from investment up to marketing and distribution. Even if there is any kind of corporate investment, that should be properly regulated by the public authorities.

Sarika Tripathi

Author is a Correspondent of Citizen News Service (CNS, www.Citizen-News.org), and also a post-graduate scholar of Public Health Management at Lucknow University in India. She can be contacted at sarikasarika_49@rediffmail.com

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NE rebels give R-Day boycott call

25 Jan 2018 - 12:45pm | AT News Imphal

The United National Liberation Front of Western South-East Asian Region (UNLFW) has announced to call for an 11-hour shutdown of the region and boycott Republic Day celebrations on January 26.

While appealing to the people to boycott the event, the front in a statement said it has called for the shutdown from 6 am to 5 pm on Republic Day across the region.

The statement was signed by the top insurgent leaders of the Hynniewtrep National Liberation Council (HNLC), Kangleipak Communist Party (KCP), Kanglei Yawol Kanna Lup (KYKL), National Liberation Front Twipra (NLFT) and People’s Democratic Council of Karbilongri (PDCK).

The UNLFW in a statement said that this year’s Republic Day of India falls on the 26th January 2018 and various colonial government agencies are going to be pressurized into celebrating the day with pomp and ceremony in many cities and towns of WESEA region.

“Generally, only a few collaborators join them willingly and wittingly, some people witness them unwittingly, many people come reluctantly and a majority of them are lured to participate through incentives, it said.

The statement said it is purely a tool of historiographical colonialism and colonization of the mind, and that “India’s objective is to remove the true historical memories of our people from their minds and to replace them with fabricated historical narratives endorsing ethnic and racial assimilation with heartland Indian Aryans.”

The front’s statement further said the people of WESEA region have never opted for being subjects of India and they have not enjoyed republican administration in a true sense of the term, adding that Indian republic day celebrations are more prominent and conspicuous in WESEA region than in mainland India.

 

It said, “The armed struggles of our region aim to liberate the peoples of this region from Indian occupation and colonization. To translate this into reality our first and foremost task is to liberate ourselves from Indian colonization of our minds. Psychological decolonization should precede physical decolonization. Without decolonization of the mind, it is impossible to achieve political decolonization. Decolonization of the mind includes all forms of decolonization, historiographical, academic, psychological, philosophical, linguistic and epistemological.”

 

The statement said, “As a step for decolonization of mind, we, the undersigned representatives of our respective revolutionary organizations, declare to ban India’s republic day celebrations in our WESEA region. To prop up the above declaration, we call for total shutdown of the entire region for 11 hours, that is, from 6 AM to 5 PM of the day, the 26th January 2018. We call upon all peoples of this region to fully support this ban considering the urgent need to resist Indian occupation of our land. This call shall go concurrently with bans declared by other fraternal outfits of our WESEA region.”

Uneasy situation at Golaghat township

26 Dec 2008 - 9:15pm | editor
Normal life comes to a grinding halt at Golaghat town in upper Assam minutes after a few students leaders forcibly took away a pair of keys of a shop for failing to donate for an upcoming function.

According to information, a few AATASU at around 12 noon demanded cash as donation for holding a function in January. This was followed by a debate with heat. The leaders have forcibly took away the pair of keys from the shopkeeper.

As the news was spreading like wildfire, hundreds of people are coming out to the streets and staging a road blockade in front of the Deputy Commissioner’s Office in the town demanding action against the miscreants involved in it.

Dr SI Ahmed to attend UN program

25 Feb 2015 - 10:10am | AT News

Dr Syed Iftikar Ahmed, chairman of Guwahati based NGO ‘AIDS Prevention Society’ and a member of Lions Club of Narangi (District 322D) has been invited to attend the Lions Day program at United Nations’ headquarter in New York. The theme of Lion International program, to be held in the first week of March 2015, is ‘Children in Need’ and it will be addressed by key UN speakers dwelling deeper into the subject matter.

Dr Ahmed, who designed and implemented a flagship project in India for preventing the children from acquiring HIV from their infected mothers, is scheduled to present the outcome of the project at the UN meeting. The European Commission in Brussels had already honoured the innovative scientific research project in an international competitive bid.

The project, implemented between 2001 to 2007, involved the screening of 6,000 antenatal mothers who were administered anti retroviral drug ‘Nevirapine’ and it showed encouraging outcomes with drastically reduced rates of infection from the mother to the newborn baby. The entire process was monitored by the European Commission experts and was evaluated by the scientists belonged to Indian Council for Medical Research.

President of the North East India Harm Reduction Network (NEIHRN) Dr Ahmed earlier attended the UN General Assembly’s a special session on HIV/AIDS in 2008, where he successfully raised the serious issue of Hepatitis C & HIV co-infection that had taken many lives including young people till date in northeast India.