The history lesson Rahul Gandhi needs to take from Shashi Tharoor

Rahul Gandhi is turning out to be a fan of trashy Hindi films of the 70s and 80s. A few days back he spoke about ma ke aansoo(tears of his mother) and yesterday it was the turn of khandan ka balidan (the sacrifices of his family). “My grandmother was killed. My father was assassinated and perhaps I may also be killed one day. I am not bothered. I had to tell you what I felt from the heart,” he said yesterday.
While, Rahul Gandhi might have been talking from his heart, it is important to understand here that his grandmother and his father were killed because of monsters they managed to create.
Indira Gandhi did not like non Congress governments being elected to power in states. Either she dismissed them or created problems for them. She ultimately had to pay a price for this. In 1977, the Akali Dal party had been elected to power in Punjab. The Akali Dal was an ally of the Janata Party which had won the 1977 Lok Sabha elections and managed to throw Indira Gandhi out of power. She came back to power in 1980 and started to create problems for the Akalis.
Shashi Tharoor, the current minister of state for human resources development, documents this rather well in 
India – From Midnight to the Millennium. As he writes “In 1977, the Congress Party had been ousted in Punjab by the Sikh Akali Dal Party, an ally of Janata; Mrs Gandhi typically decided to undermine them from the quarter they least expected, by opponents even more Sikh than the Akalis. So she encouraged (and reportedly even initially financed) the extremist fanaticism of a Sikh fundamentalist leader Jarnail Singh Bhindarwale. Bhindarwale soon tired of assassinating clean shaven Sikhs for their apostasy and instead took up the cause of an independent Sikh state, Khalistan,” writes Tharoor.
Ramachandra Guha alludes to the link between Indira Gandhi and Bhindarwale in 
India After Gandhi. As he writes “By some accounts, Bhindarwale was built by Sanjay Gandhi and the union home minister Zail Singh (himself a former chief minister of Punjab) as a counter to the Akalis. Writing in September 1982 the journalist Ayesha Kagal remarked that the preacher(i.e. Bhindarwale) ‘was originally a product nurtured and marketed by the Centre to cut into the Akali Dal’s ‘sphere of influence’. The key word here is ‘originally’. For whoever it was who first promoted him, Bhindarwale quickly demonstrated his own independent charisma and influence. To him were attracted many Jats of a peasant background who had seen the gains of the Green Revolution being cornered by the landowners. Other followers came from the lower Sikh castes of artisans and labourers.”
Bhindarwale soon started operating out of the Golden Temple. As Guha writes “He(i.e. Bhindarwale) had acquired a group of devoted gun-totting followers who acted as his acolytes and bodyguards and, on occasion, as willing and unpaid killers.”
The situation soon got out of hand and Indira Gandhi had to send the army into the Golden temple where terrorists led by Bhindarwale were holed in. In fact, Bhindarwale had moved into the Akal Takht(the throne of the timeless one), from where the Sikh gurus had issued their 
hukumnamas, which the Sikhs were supposed to follow.
“Mrs Gandhi had little choice but to destroy the monster she had herself spawned, and she finally violated a basic tenet of the Indian state by sending armed troops into a place of worship, the historic Golden Temple in Amritsar, to flush out terrorists holed up there,” writes Tharoor.
Bhindarwale was killed in the fighting that followed the Indian army entering the Golden Temple. Tavleen Singh recounts a conversation she had with General K.S. ‘Bulbul’ Brar who was directly incharge of what came to be known as Operation Bluestar, in her book 
Here is how the conversation went:

‘Is the Sant (i.e. Bhindarwale) dead?’
‘How did he die?’ ‘Crossfire. Early in the morning on the second day he walked out of the Akal Takht with General Shabeg and Amrik Singh, and they fell.’
‘Did the fighting stop immediately after that?’
‘It did. But we lost a lot of men…and the Akal Takht is badly damaged. We had to use tanks and heavy artillery. It was a mess.’
‘In the villages they say Sant is still alive. Where is the rumour coming from?’
General Brar frowned and looked wearily at his officers. ‘This is a problem,’ he said, ‘we’re not sure how to deal with it. He’s dead.’

The attack on the Golden Temple proved to be a disastrous move. As Tharoor points out “The assault on the Golden Temple deeply alienated many Sikhs whose patriotism was unquestionable; the Gandhi family’s staunchest ally in the independent press, the Sikh editor Khushwant Singh, returned his national honours to the government, and a battalion of Sikhs, the backbone of the army, mutinied.”
The attack on the Golden Temple ultimately led to the assassination of Indira Gandhi on October 31, 1984. “Mrs Gandhi never understood the extent to which so many Sikhs saw Bluestar as a betrayal. She refused to draw the conclusions her security advisers did, and to her credit turned down their recommendations to remove Sikhs from her personal guard detail. Two of them, men sworn to protect her with their lives turned their guns upon her instead…but her real fault lay in having created the problem in the first place and in letting it mount to the point where the destructive force of “Operation Bluestar” seemed the only solution,” writes Tharoor.
Operation Bluestar also ended up exacerbating the Punjab problem. As Singh points out “It soon became clear that the operation to save the Golden Temple had been a disaster. It was clear to the army, to journalists and to most political analysts….Far from ending the Punjab problem Operation Blue Star served served to dangerously exacerbate it and to deepen the divisions between Hindus and Sikhs.”
Like Bhindarwale in Punjab, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam(LTTE) was also a monster helped to flourish by the Indian state. Guha deals with this in detail in India After Gandhi. “Of the several Tamil resistance organizations, the most influential and powerful were the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam(LTTE). Led by a brutal fighter named Velupillai Prabhakaran, the LTTE had as its aim a separate nation, to be constituted from the north and east of the island, where the Tamils were in a majority…LTTE fighters had long used the Indian state of Tamil Nadu as a safe haven. Their activities were actively helped by the state government with New Delhi turning an indulgent eye.”
As we all know New Delhi was first run by Indira Gandhi and then her son Rajiv, grandmother and father of current vice president of the Congress party, Rahul Gandhi.
In 1987, Rajiv Gandhi made the disastrous decision of sending the Indian Peace Keeping Force to end the conflict in Sri Lanka. And this finally led to his assassination on May 21, 1991.
The point here is that the father and the grandmother of Rahul Gandhi were not martyrs, as he tried to project them as. They ended up paying for the huge mistakes that they made.
Rahul Gandhi also said in reference to the BJP “
ye rajneetik laabh ke liye chot pahunchate hain.(they hurt people for political gains.)” It is worth reminding Rahul about what his father Rajiv said in reference to the riots that happened after the assassination of Indira Gandhi. “When a big tree falls, the earth shakes.”
Trying to create fear and sympathy in the minds of people is a time tested political strategy, which politicians resort to, when they run out of ideas. Rahul Gandhi is just trying to do that.

The article originally appeared on on October 24, 2013
(Vivek Kaul is a writer. He tweets @kaul_vivek) 

What media missed out on in Rahul Gandhi's “escape-velocity” speech

rahul gandhi

Vivek Kaul 
Nitpicking is not a good habit I am told.
But there are times when the opportunity is too good to resist.
Rahul Gandhi in a recent speech which has become famous as the “escape velocity” speech said “
To Jupiter ki escape velocity kya hoti hai? Agar koi Jupiter pe khada hai aur Jupiter ki kheech se nikalna ho to use 60 km/sec ki acceleration chahiye. (So what is the escape velocity of Jupiter? If you are standing on Jupiter you need to go at 60 km/sec).”
Rahul had defined escape velocity a little earlier in his speech. “
Escape velocity matlab agar aap ne dharti se space mein jana hai… agar aap hamari dharti pe hai to 11.2 km per second aap ki velocity honi padegi. (There is a concept of escape velocity if you want to go into space from Earth… your velocity has to be 11.2 km/sec).”
There is a very basic flaw in this small lecture on escape velocity. Acceleration and velocity are two different concepts. As Rahul said “
Agar koi Jupiter pe khada hai aur Jupiter ki kheech se nikalna ho to use 60 km/sec ki acceleration chahiye.”
The word to be used here was velocity and not acceleration. Acceleration, as anyone who has studied basic eight standard physics will tell you, is the rate of change of velocity per unit of time. Lets consider the following table which shows the velocity of a moving object:
As we can see clearly from the above table, the velocity is constantly going up at the rate of 5 metre per second, in each second of time. Hence, the object has an acceleration of 5 metre per second squared (m/s
So that is the difference between velocity and acceleration. They are two different words, with two different meanings, which cannot be used interchangeably.
So that was the nitpicking bit.
The “escape velocity” comment has been a subject of lot of ridicule since it was first made. But there was a bigger joke in Rahul Gandhi’s speech, which people haven’t latched onto. He recounted a story that his late grandmother Indira Gandhi had told him about how s
he had cheered a team playing an ice hockey match against Germany, which was then ruled by Adolf Hitler. As Rahul said “It was a match between Germany and some other team. The other team was being thrashed and the crowds were cheering….My grandmother (Indira Gandhi) felt very bad and got up to cheer the weak team, but was shouted at. She sat down out of fear.” (As reported in The Time of India)
“The whole stadium (full of Germans) shouted against her. She sat down in fear but decided that never again in her life she will ever sit down in fear… If somebody is doing anything wrong never sit down,” Rahul said (
As reported in The Telegraph). This it seems had an impact on Indira Gandhi and she resolved never again to be cowed down, while doing what she thought was right.
This is the bigger joke in the speech. Indira Gandhi only did those things that ensured that she continued to be in power. She destroyed the democratic institutions in this country. The lack of governance today in India is because of all that she did when she was the Prime Minister. 
As Gurucharan Das told me in an interview last year “The damage that Indira Gandhi did was far greater. Her license raj combined with the mai baap sarkar, this double whammy gave the illusion to the people that the state would do everything…The second was the damage she did to our political institutions…During the period she was the Prime Minister, I think she dismissed fifty nine elected governments in states…She tried to change India’s culture and change our political system. A lot has been written about the emergency and so on. But the enduring damage we don’t realise. Before her, Chief Ministers were a little afraid when a secretary said no sir you can’t do this. And if you tried to do it, the secretary wouldn’t bend very often. Now they just transfer…Also after Indira Gandhi the police became a handmaiden of the executive. The police lost its independence.  Even the judiciary was damaged. She wanted committed judges.”
Other than destroying the democratic institutions of this country she turned the Congress party, into a party which thrives on 
chamchas and chamchagiri. Historian and writer  Ramachandra Guha explains this in an essay titled A Short History of Congress Chamchagiri which is a part of his book Patriots and Partisans.“Most Indians are too young to know this, but the truth is that until about 1969 the Congress was more or less a democratic party,” writes Guha.
Indira Gandhi had been planning to settle in Great Britain. After Nehru died in May 1964, she was invited to join the cabinet as the minister of information and broadcasting by Lal Bahadur Shastri who took over as the next prime minister.
“When Shastri died in January 1966, Mrs Gandhi was, to her own surprise, catapulted into the post of the prime minister. There were other and better candidates for the job, but the Congress bosses (notably K Kamraj) thought that they could more easily control a lady they thought to be a 
gungi gudiya (dumb doll),“ writes Guha.
But she was not a 
gungi gudia and made all the right moves to consolidate her power and finally split the Congress party in 1969 and what was a essentially a decentralised and democratic party till that point of time became an extension of the whims, fancies and insecurities of a single individual.
Thus started an era of 
chamchas and chamchagiri in the Congress. Dev Kant Baruah who was the President of the Congress Party between 1975 and 1977 went to the extent of saying “Indira is India and India is Indira”. What was loyalty to the party earlier became loyalty to the individual and the family.
Also, Indira Gandhi took total control over the system effectively overriding democracy and imposing emergency on June 26, 1975. During this period she also formed a mini government within the government. This effort was led by her PN Haksar, her civil service secretary.
As veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar recounts in 
Emergency Retold “Haksar…organised the system in such a way that everything would revolve around the prime minister’s secretariat. Not even a deputy secretary was appointed without its concurrence. He set up a mini government…Haksar’s main contribution was that he politicized the setup, in the sense that for the first time in the country’s post independence history, government machinery came to be used for political purposes, if need be for Congress party purposes.”
The prime minister’s office is currently run by Pulok Chatterjee, who was earlier the officer on special duty to Sonia Gandhi.
Getting back to the emergency, Indira’s mini government had total control over how the system worked. A 
famous cartoon made by Abu showed President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed in his bath during the emergency signing ordinances and saying “if there are any more ordinances just ask them to wait.”
Indira Gandhi also ensured that the Congress party effectively became a family run concern. As Guha writes in the essay 
Verdicts on Nehru “Mrs Gandhi converted the Indian National Congress into a family business. She first bought in her son Sanjay, and after his death, his brother Rajiv. In each case, it was made clear that the son would succeed Mrs Gandhi as head of Congress and head of government.”
Once the model was established firmly in the Congress party, it spread to most other political parties. “Indira Gandhi’s embrace of the dynastic principle for the Congress served as a ready model for other parties to emulate…The DMK was once the proud party of Dravidian nationalism and social reform; it is now the private property of M Karunanidhi and his children…Likewise, for all his professed commitment to Maharashtrian pride and Hindu nationalism Shiv Sena leader, Bal Thackeray could look no further than his son. The Samajwadi Party and Rashtriya Janta Dal claimed to stand for ‘social justice’, but the leadership of Mulayam’s party passed onto his son and in Lalu’s party to his wife,” writes Guha.
In doing what she did Indira Gandhi basically destroyed Indian democracy. Indeed, if she had not done what she did, Rahul Gandhi would not be the vice-president of the Congress party. He would at best be a middle level manager of a private sector company (as Guha puts it). Rahul Gandhi is honest enough to realise this. In October 2008, while addressing girl students at a resort near Jim Corbett National Park, Rahul Gandhi referred to “politics” as a closed system in India. “If I had not come from my family, I wouldn’t be here. You can enter the system either through family or friends or money. Without family, friends or money, you cannot enter the system. My father was in politics. My grandmother and great grandfather were in politics. So, it was easy for me to enter politics. This is a problem. I am a symptom of this problem.”
Hence, it is not surprising Rahul is inspired by what his grandmother, Indira Gandhi, told him. If it was not for her, he would be largely irrelevant today. He would pop up in the media once in a while, as a subject of stories on what are the descendants of Indira Gandhi doing today. Meanwhile, Rahul’s “bigger” joke, I talked about initially, is really on us, the citizens of this country.

(Vivek Kaul is the author of Easy Money. He tweets @kaul_vivek) 

What Chidambaram learnt from Crime Master Gogo and Andaz Apna Apna

crime master go goVivek Kaul 

All my dreams start with Venkatesh Prasad bowling a slow leg cutter, which lands in the middle of the cricket pitch and takes an eternity to reach the batsman.
I never see the batsman’s face.
But yesterday was different. I saw the batsman’s face and it was P Chidambaram.
Before I could see what Chidambaram was able to do with the slow leg cutter, my dream moved into a large hall (like Vigyan Bhavan) in Delhi.
Chidambaram was seated on the dais with a few mikes in front of him.
I was in the middle of the hall.
Why is there no one else here?” he asked. 
His voice reveberated into my ears.
Oh that’s because it’s my dream,” I replied, matter of factly. 
“Ah, I see. And what am I doing in your dream?”
“I wish I had an answer.” 
“So who will have an answer?”
“Venkatesh Prasad should know because he was one the one who bowled you a leg cutter,” I explained. 
“Venkatesh who?” he asked.
Never mind. But I have a question for you.” 
“Shoot. Now that I am here, let me do something useful.” 
“It’s about the fiscal deficit.” 
“Fiscal deficit?” he said. “You dream about fiscal deficits?”
“Yes, sometimes I do, when Deepika and Katrina are busy somewhere else.” 
“Ah, them. Good girls. So shoot.” 
“But I want an honest answer.”
“You will definitely get one. It’s only a dream after all.” 
“So what is your latest view on the fiscal deficit?” I asked.
Latest view?” 
“Are you worried or not worried about it?”
As I said yesterday, the government will not cross the red line set at 4.8% of the GDP(Gross Domestic Product), when it comes to the fiscal deficit.”
“Yes. And we will rein in spending and cut subsidies to meet this target. I see, food subsidies as one area where spending would need to be addressed in coming months.” 
“Interesting. Has Sonia 
ji cleared this?” 
“Of course. Of course,” replied Chidambaram, not expecting the question. 
“Why should I believe you?”
“Why would I lie to you in a dream?” replied Chidambaram, trying to convince me that Sonia Gandhi would allow the government to rein in her favourite food subsidies.
And what about the yuvraaj?”
What about him?”
“What if, he goes against his mother again?”
“Ah, wasn’t that such a cute thing to do. I loved the way he said, 
main aaj bhi feke hue paise nahi uthata, hain!
“Oh, but when did he say that? That was Amitabh Bachchan in 
Deewar, and the hain was from Agneepath.”
Arre yaar Vivek. We are in a dream. Don’t analyse too much.” 
“But there has got to be some logic even in a dream.” 
“What I meant was that I loved his classic angry young man act. And so did 
mauni baba as he told me later.” 
“Young man?”
“When Amitabh could play 
Lal Badshah at the age of 57, and bowl the maidens over, Rahul baba to is just 43!”
“Yes, still some time to go,” I conceded.
“So are we done yet?” asked Chidambaram. “There are other better dreams that I need to get into.” 
“Let’s get back to the fiscal deficit. Numbers declared by the Controller General of Accounts, which is a part of the ministry you head, show that the government has reached 74.6% of its annual fiscal deficit target of Rs 542,499 crore, or 4.8% of the GDP, in the first five months of the financial year (i.e. A
pril to August 2013).”
“These numbers were declared on September 30, 2013. You dismissed any worries about these numbers when you spoke to reporters the next day i.e. October 1, 2013. “The 74.6% number is irrelevant. We deliberately front-loaded our planned expenditure,” you said.”
“Yes, I did.” 
“So on October 1, you were not worried about the fiscal deficit, but yesterday you were so concerned about it that you even stated that the government will have to control Sonia madam’s favourite food subsidies. What changed in six days time?” I asked. 
“Oh, you can’t hold me responsible for something I said six days back, come on. You know that’s not the way it works,” Chidambaram said, trying to scuttle my question. 
“Oh, and I also checked some numbers. The total planned expenditure between April and August 2013 stood at Rs 1,83,091 crore or around 33% of the Rs 5,55,322 crore that has been budgeted to be spent during the course of the year.”
“The government has spent only 33% of the planned expenditure in the first five months, so where is the front loading you were talking about?” 
Eh. You come so well prepared even in a dream. As I said you can’t hold me responsible for something I said six days back. What is that saying you guys have in Hindi?”
“Yeah, night over, thing over.” 
raat gayee baat gayee.”
“So, it’s not my fault that reporters don’t do their home work well enough and don’t cross question me when they need to,” said Chidambaram. “I say different things in on different days.” 
“Also, on October 3, your ministry put out a press release in which it said that the government plans to infuse capital into public sector banks. In the budget an amount of Rs 14,000 crore had been provided for. But this amount will now be enhanced sufficiently, the release said.” 
“Yes, it did,” replied Chidambaram. 
“And this additional amount is being provided so as to enable banks to give two wheeler and consumer durable loans, with the hope of stimulating consumer demand.” 
“Where is this extra money going to come from?”
“I think its time for me to leave the dream and go to 
mauni baba’s dream. He doesn’t ask so many questions.”
“Isn’t this going to put pressure on the fiscal deficit?”
“Ah, looks like there is no one in Katrina’s dream today, as well. Let me go there.”
“No answer?”
“Let me try and explain this to you in a different way.” 
“Have you seen this movie called 
Andaz Apna Apna?”
“What was your learning from it?”
“I remember reading somewhere that Aamir Khan and Salman Khan did not get along while the movie was being shot.”
“So? What is the learning there?”
“Superstars, often don’t get along.”
“Yes. Isn’t that obvious? Anything else?”
“Oh, and the length of Salman Khan’s hair kept changing throughout the movie. In one scene he had long hair up to his shoulders. In the next scene he had short hair.” 
“I guess the producer would have run out of money and the Salman would have cut his hair meanwhile.”
“So? What is the learning there?”
“Producers, like governments, often run out of money.”
“Arggh..” said Chidambaram, getting slightly irritated. 
“So what do you think is the learning?”I asked.
“Do you remember this character called 
Crime Master Gogo played by Shakti Kapoor?
“Yes, I do.”
“So one of his signature lines in the movie is 
aaya hoon kuch to le kar jaoonga (now that I am here, let me take something as well ).”
“So I have made this line my guiding principle, by replacing one word.”
“One word?”
“Yes and I like to say, 
aaya hoon kuch to keh kar jaoonga (now that I am here, let me say something as well).” 
“And that’s the principle I follow when I meet the press. Everyday is a new day.”

The article originally appeared on on October 8, 2013 

(Vivek Kaul is a writer. He tweets @kaul_vivek) 

CAG report shows why food security will be a disaster

india-wheat-2011-5-5-8-51-9Vivek Kaul
On May 7, earlier this month, the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India presented to the Parliament a Performance Audit of Storage Management and Movement of Food Grains in Food Corporation of India.
This report has gone largely unreported in the media, given that it does not contain any big number running into lakhs of crore like a few previous reports of the CAG did. But it clearly explains why the government of India is in no position to introduce the right to food security. And if it does that, it will be a disaster.
Currently the government declares a minimum support price(MSP) for wheat and rice paddy, and buys them directly from the farmers using the services of the Food Corporation of India(FCI) as well as state government agencies. FCI and other agencies are expected to buy all the rice and wheat that lands up at the government 
The data put out by CAG clearly shows that the procurement of wheat and rice by the government has gone up dramatically since 2006-2007 (i.e. the period between April 1, 2006 and March 31, 2007). In 2006-2007, 75.8 million tonnes of wheat was produced by the Indian farmers. Of this nearly 18% landed up with FCI and the state government agencies. In 2011-2012 (i.e. the period between April 1, 2011, and March 31, 2012), the wheat produce had shot up 93.9 million tonnes. Of this nearly 35% landed up with the FCI and state government agencies.
When it comes to rice the situation is even more pronounced. In 2006-2007, the total rice production was at 93.4 million tonnes. Of this 32% landed up with FCI and other state government agencies. In 2011-2012, the rice produce was at 104.3 million tonnes. Of this a whopping 54% landed up with FCI and other state government agencies.
What this tells us is that more and more rice and wheat is landing up with the government. This is primarily on account of the fact that minimum support price has consistently been raised over the last few years, encouraging the farmers to sell directly to the government.
And this has done in a totally random manner. As the report points out “ No specific norm was followed for fixing of the Minimum Support Price (MSP) over the cost of production. Resultantly, it was observed the margin of MSP fixed over the cost of production varied between 29 per cent and 66 per cent in case of wheat, and 14 per cent and 50 per cent in case of paddy during the period 2006-2007 to 2011-2012.”
Typically MSP needs to be fixed depending on the rates recommended by Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP), which is a part of the Ministry of Agriculture. While determining the MSP, CACP takes into account, the cost of production, domestic and international market prices, stock position, prices fixed in previous years etc. So even though there is a robust method for determining the MSP at which the government of India should buy rice and wheat from farmers, that is not being followed.
Also as more and more rice and wheat lands up with the government, there is less of it available in the open market. In 2006-2007, 63.3 million tonnes of rice landed in the open market. By 2011-2012, this had fallen by a huge 23.6% to 48.3 million tonnes. The same is true about about wheat as well, though the drop is not as pronounced as it is in the case of rice. In 2006-2007, the total amount of wheat in the open market stood at 62.1 million tonnes. By 2011-2012, this had dropped to 61.4 million tonnes.
And that explains the high cereal inflation of 16.65% in April, 2013. If food security becomes a right, the government will need to buy more rice and wheat than it currently is, and that will mean lesser amount of rice and wheat available in the open market as has been the case over the last few years. This will push up their price further.
The conspiracy theory here is that if food security bill is passed (or even brought in through an ordinance) a lot more rice and wheat will land up in the open market and thus slowdown cereal inflation. The government plans to use its rotten public distribution system to distribute rice and wheat, and that means that a lot of it will be sold in black and end up in the open market. This is expected to drive down the price of rice and wheat. And this for all we know this might very well turn out to be true.
Once FCI and other state government agencies have procured the wheat and rice it needs to be stored. The CAG has also audited the total storage capacity of FCI (its own as well as hired) over the years.
As on March 31, 2007, the total storage capacity of FCI stood at 25.2 million tonnes. The total stock of food grains(i.e. both rice and wheat) stored in the central pool as on June 1, 2007, stood at 25.9 million tonnes. So storage capacity more or less matched the total amount of food grains stock. The total stock of food grains that is held by the FCI, state governments and their agencies, is referred to as the central pool.
But the situation has changed dramatically since then. As on June 1, 2012 (on June 1, the central pool stock is at its peak) the total amount of food grains in the central pool stood at 82.4 million tonnes. Some of this grain was distributed to the states which do not produce enough rice and wheat of their own. After this the total amount of food grains stock stood at 66.8 million tonnes.
In comparison the storage capacity was at 33.6 million tonnes. This meant that there was a gap of 33.2 million tonnes. So nearly 50% of the food grains remaining in stock did not have any storage space.
As the CAG report mildly puts it “the available storage space operated by FCI was largely inadequate”. Given this lack of storage space FCI could not take over the wheat that had been procured by various state government agencies on its behalf. This also explains to a large extent why newspapers regularly print photographs of rice and wheat rotting in the open after it has been procured by the government.
So what does this mean in terms of the right to food security? As more and more rice and wheat is bought by the government, a large amount of it will rot in the open given that FCI does not have enough storage space. Of course, the FCI can build/hire new storage space. But its past record of doing the same is simply abysmal.
As the CAG report points out “The total food grains stock in the Central Pool recorded an increase of 45.8 million tonnes between 2006-2007 and 2011-2012; FCI increased its storage space through hiring or owned space only to extent of 8.4 million tonnes (18 per cent) which was not commensurate with increase in food grains stock level. It owned storage capacity increased by mere 0.4 million tonnes during the period.”
What this means is that while FCI managed to create a storage capacity of 0.4 million tonnes on its own, the total food grains in stock went up by more than 100 times to 45.8 million tonnes. Even if we take total increase in storage capacity of FCI, the increase in food grains stock was almost 5 and a half times.
So what does this tell us? The FCI has not been able to create storage capacity. And it cannot create storage capacity in a hurry in the time to come. Given that, where will all the rice and wheat that will be bought by the government to fulfil the right to food security, be stored? Why don’t the 
jholawalas led by Amartya Sen give us an answer for that? Imagine the humongous amount of rice and wheat that will rot throughout the country after it has been acquired by the government. What will be the social and economic implications of that?
FCI procures most of the rice and wheat in the states of Punjab and Haryana. As the CAG report points out “During the period 2006-2007 to 2011-2012, about 75 per cent of stocks were moved by ex- North as procurement was largely concentrated in the North and the remaining 25 per cent was moved from other procuring states of Andhra Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Odisha, West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh. During the six year period, movement of stocks by rail constituted about 92 per cent and the remaining 8 per cent was moved by road.”
Hence, rice and wheat is moved from states which produce more than what is required for consumption and distribution within the state, to states which do not produce enough. This movement is largely carried through Railways. Every month FCI prepares a movement plan in terms of railway rakes to be dispatched to various destinations throughout the country. The trouble is that there is a shortage of railway rakes. In 2006-2007 this shortage was 10%. In 2009-2010 it increased to 12%. And by 2011-2012 this had shot up to 17%.
This shortage of rakes needs to be addressed immediately. If, right to food security comes in, this shortage is likely to go up, given that more food grains will have to be moved across the country.
These are some of the basic issues that the CAG report on FCI points out.
jholawalas are not bothered about this. They just want the right to food security bill to be introduced and the rest of it will sort itself out as we go along is the argument that they are making.
But anyone who has some understanding of this country and the way it works, knows that nothing will sort itself out. Things will get bad, before they get worse.
Let me conclude this piece with one my favourite Urdu couplets:
Na Khuda hi mila, na visaal-e-sanam/Na udhar kay rahay, na idhar kay rahe
(I found neither faith, nor union with my lover/And now I belong neither there nor here).
That’s the way we seem to be headed when it comes to right to food security.
The article was originally published on on May 14, 2013
(Vivek Kaul is a writer. He tweets @kaul_vivek)