statesman news service
Kolkata, 15 July
It is a pity that the National Food Security Bill has come through the ordinance route, instead of a bill passed by the Parliament, said Nobel Laureate economist Prof Amartya Sen said today at an interactive session at Presidency college.
“I don’t know much about the content of the bill. But I believe that it has come through an ordinance, not as a parliamentary bill, which is in some ways a pity. But the issue to be looked at is how it is being financed,” said Prof Sen at a question-answer session at Presidency University today as some students asked him to comment on the Food bill, its fiscal implications and its connection with freedom to choose food-grains.
Saying that he was not in a position to comment on contents of the bill, he added: “What I do have a view on is to compare it with cutting other things like health and education and so on and not talking about the subsidy in electricity which might absorb two percent of GDP. Yet one third of India has no electricity and India is one of the few countries that provide subsidy in fossil-fuels.”
The food security ordinance will provide subsidised food grain to around 67 percent of India’s 1.2 billion people. The bill envisages providing five kilogram foodgrain at rates ranging between Rs 1-Rs 3 per kg. Talking about the the bill’s link with the freedom of choosing food-grain, the professor added: “Food security assures food while the alternative is no food. So here we can’t justify the attack on freedom. Freedom always comes first but there are some technical aspects too.”
Prof Sen was in the university to deliver the sixth Dipak Banerjee memorial lecture on “First things first” which was actually the subtitle of Prof Banerjee’s research paper “Choice and Order”. Prof Banerjee was a teacher of the Economics department of the erstwhile Presidency College. Economists like Amit Bhaduri, Maitrish Ghatak, Pranab Bardhan, Debraj Roy, Joseph Stiglitz delivered the lectures in the past years. Mr Abhijit Pathak, an alumnus of the college donated to the V-C’s fund for excellence to renovate one of the rooms in which Prof Banerjee used to teach. “With this assistance we have renovated a lecture room and we are planning to compile all the memorial lectures and publish,” said Prof Malabika Sarkar.