In a partisan political environment where there has been barely any debate in Parliament, the government perhaps
realized that there was no point trying to evolve an all party consensus over the issu
e. The BJP is unlikely to debate any issue before the end of this current session of Lok Sabha, let alone a legislation that it deems a flagship welfare scheme of the government. However, that does not mean that the Food Security Bill is not needed.
The Bill can still be discussed in parliament and passed. Despite naysayers, the food security legislation will not
add as much as claimed to the fiscal deficit of the country’s economy. It will also make food available to the poor at lower prices allowing them to save money for other food items. The legislation may also allow the government to replace a non-functional public distribution system, which has only worked in a handful of states. The political implications aside, the Food Security ordinance could do a
lot of good and delaying it purely for political gains wouldn’t be right.
The food security ordinance, which the Cabinet cleared on Wednesday, compounds the tragedy of an ill-conceived proposal, however well-intentioned, by hustling it without parliamentary scrutiny for bla
tantly partisan political ends.
As has been well-established, the food security bill isn't the best way to ensure the noble objective of food security: it doesn't acknowledge variance in State-level needs, imposes another monolithic scheme even on States that have implemented well-preforming targeted programs, is a recipe for yet more corruption, and imposes a stiff, potentially ruinous, fiscal tab because its entitlements are open-ended.
And the reasons that the government cites for circumventing Parliament and taking the ordinance route, barely days ahead of the monsoon session of Parliament, are dishonest. The principal Opposition party, the BJP, does not oppose the Bill (which is a tragedy in its own right). The Bill needed to be discussed threadbare, and its many blatant deficiencies and incursions on the States' domains needed to be curtailed.
But with an eye on the upcoming elections, the UPA government is rushing to claim all credit for this blatantly populist policy by subverting the basis on which the facility to promulgate ordinances was enshrined in the Constitution. The ordinance needs to be spiked, but it will take a less partisan President than Pranab Mukherjee to do that.