Team Zee Research Group / Delhi
Acute poverty staring India on the face and we can’t ignore it, declared Oscar Fernandes. The Minister for Transport, Road and Highway explained that there is a well-thought process and intentions behind United Progressive Alliance’s (UPA) social welfare programmes. To term them as populist is to ignore our responsibility towards the weakest.
“Rampant poverty must be fought against. Sonia Gandhi is very clear that it is our responsibility to provide cheap food grains to the poor. It will take care of the problem of malnutrition and may reduce overall health costs,” Fernandes said on Zee Media’s Bharat Bhagya Vidhata Nishane Pe show guest-anchored by Ashutosh Rana. The show is aired every Friday night at 10pm.
While Fernandes agreed that production of cereals and other essential food commodities hasn’t kept pace with increase in wages, the food security bill has been designed to ensure that poor don’t get hurt.
“Inflation hits the poor hardest and they are at the receiving end of soaring food prices. We can’t control price rise in general. But, we will ensure that the poor get food grains at a subsidised rate. The Food Security Bill passed by the Parliament last week will ensure that no one sleeps empty stomach,” Fernandes reiterated the objective of UPA’s flagship programme.
But, hasn’t the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (NREGA) created agricultural labour shortage which may have a role in production not keeping up with demand?
Fernandes defended NREGA on the ground that such a measure was solely needed to help India’s vast majority of poor.
“I met a poor family which struggled to secure even one square meal a day. Their twin daughters every time swapped the only dress they had to cover them. NREGA has helped such families to generate extra income during off-season and help tide them over acute poverty.”
On being probed about rising medical costs, Fernandes said that his government has plans to bring the unorganised sector workforce under public health system. The government will bring about 30 crore people under the scheme. Already cards to 3 crore beneficiaries have been distributed.
But what about plugging the leakages under the PDS system which will implement the Food Security Programme? Fernandes replied that the system will measure final performance of the programme and take corrective steps.
Fernandes defended his government’s stance on social welfare schemes by saying that “we are investing in building India’s social capital. People are our resources”.
While he agreed that wastage and rotting food grains are a cause for concern, it shouldn’t mean that “we take our eyes off the problem. Poverty and malnutrition are two problems challenges India can’t ignore”.
There is a need to ramp up storage chains and facilities but solution can be found in tradition. In the past, farmers depended on old methods for storing cereals and which lasted for many years.
(The show airs every Friday @ 10pm)