The policy makers of the country must feel ashamed after the Supreme Court’s observation asking the Centre to explain how a person can afford nutritious food for a paltry sum of Rs 10-20. The Apex Court had to raise such a question before the Planning Commission because the top policy making body of the country had submitted in an affidavit that it is possible for a citizen to afford 2400 calorie food for Rs 17 and 20 in rural and urban areas, respectively. Such generalizations can be termed as nothing else than mockery of the poor. The fact that none other than the Planning Commission submitted such an affidavit in the Apex Court is rather worrying. The Planning Commission must at least avoid playing with statistics when it comes to planning for the poor of the country. Such impractical estimates only establish that the Planning Commission is either unaware of the ground realities or else is least interested in welfare of the poor. If that is not the case, the planning body must explain the formulae which helped it deduce figures of Rs 17 and 20 for buying nutritious food.  Though it can put forth the report of Tendulkar Committee in its defense, the larger question is does it accept all such reports without considering their merits? In that context, it is very easy to comprehend why the number of malnourished populvation in the country, especially women and children, fails to head south. Number of malnourished women and children in some parts of the country is alarmingly larger than even in some of the African nations.

It is difficult to understand what the Central government is up to by resorting to such statistical manipulation. The government, by using such statistics might be planning to scale down the size of foodgrains allocation under Public Distribution Scheme (PDS) apart from exhibiting a rosy picture of reducing number of malnourished people in the country. If that is the motive, the government must understand that it would not yield anything. Contrary to the claims of the Central and State governments that everything is fine with the PDS the truth remains that they are not serious in plugging the loopholes in the PDS. The fact that the Supreme Court had to intervene in improving the PDS proves the assertion against the Centre and the State governments. It is surprising that on one hand the government is contemplating Food Security Bill to provide foodgrains to the poor families at a subsidized rate on the other hand it submits such indigestible statistics on cost of nutritious food available in the country.  If the Centre is at all serious about the Food Security Bill, it will have to improve the PDS. It is possible only if the state governments own up their responsibility. While the states have been opposing the Central government’s efforts to reduce the number of poor in the country, but when it comes to taking remedial measures to improve the PDS, the states have fared no better. The contention of several state governments that the structure of the PDS is beyond repair only exhibits their lackadaisical approach because the fact remains that the same PDS is working efficiently in states like Chhattisgarh and Tamil Nadu.