Timely implementation of good ideas is the key to reducing India’s misery index
The second tranche (a portion of something, especially money) of relief announced by Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman yesterday seeks to address the problem the poor have faced in accessing food during the pandemic. Government will bear the Rs 3,500 crore cost of distributing eight lakh tonnes of wheat and rice and 50,000 tonnes of chana dal in the next two months. The scenes witnessed in India over the last two months call for a lot of such relief. No other country’s lockdown has seen masses of citizens walking for tens and hundreds of kilometres on foot because they have lost work and there is no public transport to take them to their native places, where they hope to find a more reliable supply of food and shelter.
But beyond immediate measures there is a crying need for structural solutions that prevent the recurrence of the same misery on the same scale. In this regard it is welcome that the government will be expediting (speed up) the portability of ration cards under the One Nation One Card scheme. A major reason for the current distress is that citizens have not been able to avail their ration entitlements where they are, which is far from the specific fair price shop in the specific locality assigned to the cardholder. Locking welfare provisions to a fixed address for the citizen, presuming that this is where they must live and work, takes no account of the pull of the better opportunity wherever that might be.
Ration card portability is a UPA era idea and the Modi government has been working on operationalizing it for two years. Slow implementation of good ideas is India’s bane. On top of this, there remains the question of those who do not have a ration card at all.