The Polit Bureau of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has issued the following statement:
On Retrograde Proposals On PDS & Food Subsidy
The recommendations in the note prepared for the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs on “prudent food management” by the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution system is a serious assault on the public distribution system, food security and food self sufficiency. It is a clear violation of the assurances made on this issue in the Common Minimum Programme of the UPA Government. The note recommends the hiking of prices of foodgrains for BPL and APL categories, cutting allocations to both these sections of ration card holders and cutting down the foodgrain component in all employment generation schemes. Further, the recommendation is to wipe out the wheat deficit by removing the food component in wages in Central Government employment schemes. In totality, the recommendations mean a reduction of as much as 60.5 lakh tonnes of wheat. Combined with a hike in prices this envisages a so-called saving of Rs. 5814 crores in the food subsidy.
The CPI(M) cautions the UPA Government against taking such steps. The Party had opposed similar measures when it was first mooted in January. Since then the price situation has worsened with prices of essential commodities including wheat skyrocketing. At a time when every measure has to be taken to protect the working people, the large majority of whom are in the unorganized sector where there is no dearness allowance, acceptance of these anti-poor recommendations will have a disastrous impact on the livelihood of crores of people and add to the inflationary trends. Moreover, cuts in the foodgrain component of the SGRY and refusal to include foodgrains in the REGA schemes will mean a lowering of the real wages of those who are working in such projects.
The Government should take heed of the near unanimous voice of Parliament which was strongly against any weakening of the PDS and raising prices. While states may be consulted in replacing some quantity of wheat with rice or coarse grains, there should be no move at all to cut the foodgrains quota as is recommended by the Ministry.
The CPI(M) urges the Government to reject the recommendations.