FOOD CORRUPTION: Poor spoil appetite for debate – an India’s National Shame, Sarad Pawar needs impeachment ?!!
FROM THE TELEGRAPH
BY SANJAY K. JHA
With inputs from Samanwaya Rautray
and Jayanta Roy Chowdhury
New Delhi, Aug. 31: The Supreme Court today told the Centre’s counsel to tell “your minister” it had issued “an order, not a suggestion”, to distribute free foodgrain to the poor.
The stinging rebuke drew a measured response that masked the misgivings within the government and amplified the paranoia among parties that any debate could saddle them with the politically suicidal label “anti-poor”.
The court was responding to comments attributed to food minister Sharad Pawar that the judges had earlier made only a suggestion and not issued any order to give out foodgrain following reports that stocks were rotting in godowns. ( )
The court’s assertion was lapped up by the Opposition that forced a defensive Pawar to declare in the Lok Sabha that the directive would be “honoured”. All Opposition leaders wanted the immediate implementation of the court order.
But Pawar added: “I have sought the copy of the order. I want to tell the House that this government will honour the court order. Even the members’ suggestions will be seriously considered. But we can take the necessary measures only after reading the full order. No decision can be taken now.”
Pawar’s assurance pacified the Opposition but sections of the government wondered if the Supreme Court had overreached itself by “ordering” the executive to distribute the grain. Many in the government believe the court should not have encroached upon the government’s domain to formulate policy decisions.
But the government is not willing to openly confront the judiciary, as reflected in Pawar’s response, because the issue involves the poor.
Asked if the apex court had stepped into the executive’s terrain, law minister Veerappa Moily told The Telegraph: “We cannot defy the court.”
Government sources said there was no problem in giving free grain to those affected by floods, drought and other calamities but it was not for the court to take that decision.
The matter will now be debated within the government. In Parliament, however, no MP raised the question of jurisdiction. Only one member, INLD’s Sanjay Chauhan, said: “This order shows the country is run by the SC, not by the government.”
When UPA I was in power between 2004 and 2009, the Lok Sabha had discussed judicial activism on several occasions. The majority of members had then felt that the dividing line between the different pillars of democracy should be religiously honoured. The then Speaker, Somnath Chatterjee, had encouraged such a debate.
But with the vote-sensitive issue of the poor coming into play, few lawmakers were willing to resume the debate today.
Free grain is an appealing proposition politically but difficult to implement in a system known for corruption-fuelled leaks.
“We don’t have an effective distribution system. Already, we have a state of affairs where cheap grain meant for the poor is being diverted. The government will find it extremely difficult to supply free grain… most of it will end up with private traders,” said T. Haque, a former chairman of the agricultural prices commission.
The government has procured around 57 million tonnes of grain but can store only 36 million tonnes. The government spends Rs 16 on a kilo of grain and sells it for Rs 2 to the poor but a large quantity does not reach them.
Civil supplies ministry officials said it would be difficult to salvage the rotting grain and deliver it on time to the poor.
LS: BJP attacks Sharad Pawar over rotting grains – while the poor in India starve, how much loss to the Indian taxpayers has Sarad Pawar caused through incompetent mismanagement ?!!
From OneIndia News
New Delhi, Tuesday, August 31, 2010, 17:53 [IST]: Hours after Supreme Court rapped Agriculture Minister for not heeding its directive on free distribution of foodgrains to the poor, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Tuesday, Aug 30 interrupted a discussion on the Indian Medicine Central Council (Amendment) Bill in the Lok Sabha to raise the issue of rotting grains.
Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj demanded an impromptu debate on the matter and sought the presence of Pawar in the house.
Questioning the government as to why it had acted on the earlier direction of the apex court, Swaraj said, “We want the Agriculture Minister to give us an assurance that the foodgrains would be distributed among the poor. The government should give us a plan to do it within a week.”
BJP was backed by all Opposition parties in its campaign against the rotting grains and the Agriculture Minister.
Amid the din in the house, JD-U’s Sharad Yadav said, “The highest court of the country has said that the earlier direction was an order not a suggestion. The government should distribute the foodgrains to areas which are drought prone.”
Observing that the foodgrains are rotting and that the farmers are in a terrible condition, Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav said, “The situation is grim”.
RJD leader Lalu Prasad asked the government to send the rotting foodgrains to drought affected Bihar.
Pawar, who arrived after the noisy “Call Pawar” agitation in the house, assured that the government would honour the decision of the Supreme Court.
Due to the uproar and slogan shouting, the house was adjourned twice on Tuesday, Aug 31.