Excess Rice For Hand Sanitizers - But Not The Starving - By Jean Dreze

Word has it that some of the surplus rice stocked by the Food Corporation of India (FCI) is to be used to make ethanol for hand sanitizers. In fact, this is more than a rumour - an official press release posted yesterday by the Indian government's Press Information Bureau puts it in black and white. When I heard about this, I thought that perhaps some rotting rice was being disposed off as a matter of routine. But the press release does not suggest that the rice is going waste, it merely refers to a "projected over supply of food grains". Even if the rice is actually rotting, making its disposal unobjectionable, the question remains - why is it rotting in the first place? Could it be that the FCI is exceeding its safe storage capacity?

The saga of excess foodgrain stocks has generated much interest recently, but also some confusion, so it is worth a quick recap. First, the excess stocks are humongous and growing. The FCI's foodgrain stocks stood at 77 million tonnes in March 2020 - higher than ever at that time of the year, and more than three times the official buffer-stock norms. The stocks are likely to rise even higher during the next few weeks as rabi procurement (34 million tonnes last year) picks up.

Second, the excess stocks are crying to be used for emergency food assistance, especially to reach out to poor households with no ration card. Under the National Food Security Act (NFSA), the public distribution system is supposed to cover about two thirds of the population: 75 per cent in rural areas and 50 per cent in urban areas. The actual coverage of the PDS, however, is around 60 per cent, because the central government is using 2011 population figures to calculate state-wise allocations. That leaves out 40 per cent of the population - more than half a billion people.

Among the excluded 40 per cent, many households are now exposed to food insecurity. There are many possible reasons why poor people may not have a ration card today: they were missed by the 2011 Socio-Economic and Caste Census (the basis of the ration-cards list in many states); they formed a new household after the SECC was completed; their card was cancelled for lack of timely Aadhaar linkage (as happened on a large scale in Jharkhand); they were not eligible at the time of the SECC but have now been pushed into poverty by the lockdown, and so on. Even if just one fourth of the excluded 40 per cent are in need of food assistance today, that would mean 10 per cent of India's population or more than 130 million people.

Third, there is no simple way of singling out these food-insecure households for assistance in this crisis situation. Nothing is easier than recognising a poor person when you meet him or her, but making a comprehensive and reliable list of poor people is very difficult at the best of times. Available databases, such as the SECC 2011, are of little use not only because of the passage of time but also because people's circumstances have dramatically changed with the coronavirus crisis. A house-to-house survey would be very difficult to carry out at this time, and the results would take months to emerge. All this reinforces the case for universalizing the PDS during this crisis, at least in rural areas and urban slums. It would require around 20 million tonnes of extra foodgrain (less than half of the surplus stocks) to do that for an entire year. This is not a high price to pay for ensuring that no-one goes hungry. In fact, reducing the excess food stocks would save resources.

Fourth, if the central government were to release 20 million tonnes of excess stocks to the states free of cost, or at NFSA prices (Rs 3 per kg for rice and Rs 2 per kg for wheat), it would do little more than make up for short-changing them in the last few years. As mentioned earlier, the central government insists on using population figures from the 2011 census to calculate state-wise PDS allocations based on NFSA norms. Meanwhile, going by the Sample Registration System's estimates of birth and death rates, India's population has grown by more than 150 million. In other words, PDS under-coverage is at least 100 million, compared with the NFSA's prescribed minimum of two thirds of the current population. At the standard NFSA rate of 5 kg per person per month, the corresponding under-allocation works out at 6 million tonnes per year. The cumulative under-allocation since the NFSA came into force, in 2013, would be well over 20 million tonnes.

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To see these issues from another angle, consider Jharkhand. Millions of people there live on the margin at the best of times, and are now exposed to hunger and starvation. Eight lakh households have applied for a ration card, and chances are that most of them are poor households - one often meets them in the villages, sadly clinging to their crumpled application receipts. The Jharkhand government, however, is reluctant to issue ration cards beyond what the central government provides for - its finances are in bad shape and tax revenue is likely to crash this year. Covering all these households for a year or two, as an emergency measure, would make just a tiny dent in the FCI's food stocks. The Jharkhand government recently sent a request for additional foodgrain to the Food Ministry, but it was turned down.

The situation resembles what economists call a "chicken game": the states want extra grain for free, the centre wants to charge them some Rs 21-22 per kg, and both sides are digging their heels in the hope that the other side will budge. The poor are paying the price of this stalemate. Logic and fairness are on the side of the states: it would be quite hard for them to pay, while the central government would save money by releasing excess stocks that are expensive to maintain. This is not the time to squeeze the states - the centre should act in people's best interest and open the godowns.

(The author is Visiting Professor at the Department of Economics, Ranchi University.)

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts and opinions appearing in the article do not reflect the views of NDTV and NDTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.

World

6,09,23,227Cases
2,04,47,734Active
3,90,44,179Recovered
14,31,314Deaths
Coronavirus has spread to 191 countries. The total confirmed cases worldwide are 6,09,23,227 and 14,31,314 have died; 2,04,47,734 are active cases and 3,90,44,179 have recovered as on November 27, 2020 at 9:36 am.

India

93,09,787 43082Cases
4,55,555 3211Active
87,18,517 39379Recovered
1,35,715 492Deaths
In India, there are 93,09,787 confirmed cases including 1,35,715 deaths. The number of active cases is 4,55,555 and 87,18,517 have recovered as on November 27, 2020 at 8:00 am.

State & District Details

State Cases Active Recovered Deaths
DistrictCases
Akola757
Aurangabad1974
Dhule228
Jalgaon1039
Mumbai45478
Mumbai Suburban5363
Nagpur692
Nashik1575
Palghar1421
Pune9920
Satara629
Solapur1291
Thane13660
Yavatmal150
Ahmednagar190
Amravati291
Beed54
Bhandara41
Buldhana88
Chandrapur32
Hingoli208
Jalna201
Kolhapur646
Latur139
Nanded176
Nandurbar42
Parbhani78
Raigad1462
Ratnagiri350
Sangli145
Gadchiroli42
gondia69
Osmanabad125
Sindhudurg114
Wardha11
Washim13

1802365 6406

87014 1526

1668538 4815

46813 65

DistrictCases
Chittoor319
Guntur511
Krishna557
Kurnool795
Sri Potti Sriramulu Nell*296
Anantapur428
East Godavari356
Prakasam104
Srikakulam183
Visakhapatnam103
West Godavari199
Y.S.R.205
Vizianagaram23

865705 1031

12615

846120 1081

6970 8

DistrictCases
Bengaluru Rural40
Bengaluru Urban529
Mysuru107
Bagalkote103
Ballari60
Belagavi337
Bidar219
Chikkaballapura149
Dakshina Kannada179
Dharwad61
Gadag45
Kalaburagi669
Mandya346
Tumakuru36
Uttara Kannada95
Vijayapura201
Chamarajanagara0
Chikkamagaluru19
Chitradurga14
Davangere204
Hassan205
Haveri24
Kodagu4
Kolar29
Koppal5
Raichur369
Ramanagara3
Shivamogga67
Udupi1176
Yadgir538

879560 1505

25335 426

842499 1067

11726 12

DistrictCases
North Goa57
South Goa69

47341 148

1316 35

45340 111

685 2

DistrictCases
Chengalpattu1314
Chennai23324
Kanchipuram503
Madurai322
Namakkal83
Ranipet133
Thanjavur130
Thiruvallur774
Thiruvarur67
Tiruppur116
Vellore71
Virudhunagar185
Ariyalur444
Coimbatore188
Cuddalore477
Dharmapuri15
Dindigul175
Erode75
Kallakurichi324
Kanniyakumari110
Karur88
Nagapattinam99
Perambalur133
Pudukkottai53
Ramanathapuram119
Salem258
Sivaganga46
Tenkasi103
The Nilgiris17
Theni129
Tiruchirappalli119
Tirunelveli433
Tirupathur45
Tiruvannamalai496
Tuticorin333
Villupuram509
Krishnagiri43

776174 1464

11173

753332 1797

11669 14

DistrictCases
Kannur357
Kottayam73
Alappuzha76
Idukki40
Kasaragod333
Kollam118
Kozhikode90
Malappuram119
Palakkad224
Pathanamthitta98
Thiruvananthapuram104
Thrissur106
Ernakulam60
Wayanad36

583741 5378

64615

516978 5970

2148 27

DistrictCases
Raipur46
Korba100
Balod41
Baloda Bazar85
Balrampur17
Bastar2
Bemetara21
Bijapur2
Bilaspur100
Dantewada0
Dhamtari6
Durg31
Gariyaband10
Janjgir-Champa56
Jashpur77
Kabirdham52
Kanker19
Kondagaon0
Korea39
Mahasamund54
Mungeli87
Narayanpur0
Raigarh47
Rajnandgaon52
Sukma0
Surajpur9
Surguja14

230956 1753

23957

204198 2454

2801 18

DistrictCases
Hyderabad2475
MedchalMalkajgiri75
Ranga Reddy183
Suryapet87
Vikarabad40
Warangal Urban32
Adilabad22
Jagitial77
Jangoan8
Jayashankar Bhupalapally9
Jogulamba Gadwal40
Kamareddy11
Karimnagar17
Khammam26
Kumuram Bheem Asifabad8
Mahabubnagar30
Mancherial43
Medak11
Nalgonda33
Narayanpet3
Nirmal21
Nizamabad76
RajannaSircilla16
Sangareddy26
Bhadradri Kothagudem5
Mahabubabad10
Mulugu3
Nagarkurnool8
Peddapalli5
Siddipet7
Wanaparthy1
Warangal Rural4
YadadriBhuvanagiri40

267665 761

10839 55

255378 702

1448 4

DistrictCases
Baleshwar190
Bhadrak137
Jajapur322
Dhenkanal36
Kalahandi33
Kendrapara164
Khordha238
Koraput16
Sundargarh102
Anugul26
Balangir129
Bargarh16
Boudh34
Cuttack155
Deogarh33
Gajapati61
Ganjam581
Jagatsinghapur91
Jharsuguda8
Kandhamal28
Kendujhar34
Malkangiri20
Mayurbhanj73
Nabarangpur2
Nayagarh86
Nuapada69
Puri103
Rayagada2
Sambalpur16
Sonepur29

316645 644

6102

308839 737

1704 17

DistrictCases
Barwani60
Bhopal1880
Dewas140
Dhar132
East Nimar266
Gwalior211
Indore3839
Jabalpur276
Ujjain799
Agar Malwa15
Alirajpur3
Betul35
Burhanpur351
Chhindwara16
Dindori29
Harda4
Hoshangabad37
Khargone196
Mandsaur112
Morena109
Raisen71
Ratlam51
Sagar228
Shajapur39
Shandol14
Sheopur26
Tikamgarh18
Vidisha37
Anuppur22
Ashoknagar13
Balaghat9
Bhind87
Chhatarpur35
Damoh26
Datia12
Guna8
Jhabua14
Katni3
Mandla15
Narsinghpur17
Neemuch319
Niwari0
Panna20
Rajgarh31
Rewa39
Satna24
Sehore12
Seoni2
Shivpuri15
Sidhi17
Singrauli13
Umaria10

199952 1668

14199 457

182544 1199

3209 12

DistrictCases
Ahmadabad17125
Anand107
Arvalli134
Banas Kantha147
Bhavnagar146
Gandhinagar410
PanchMahals107
Surat2311
Vadodara1555
Bharuch56
Botad55
Chhotaudepur37
Dang5
Dohad43
GirSomnath45
Jamnagar63
Kachchh99
Kheda98
Mahesana159
Mahisagar125
Narmada25
Naysari35
Patan105
Rajkot135
SabarKantha101
Surendranagar55
Tapi6
Valsad47
Amreli16
DevbhumiDwarka22
Junagadh31
Morbi4
Porbandar11

203509 1560

14529 242

185058 1302

3922 16

DistrictCases
Ajmer379
Banswara91
Bharatpur563
Jaipur2177
Jhalawar329
Jodhpur1748
Kota503
Nagaur500
Alwar90
Barmer34
Bhilwara250
Bikaner112
Chittorgarh188
Churu81
Dausa61
Dholpur60
Dungarpur374
Hanumangarh31
Jaisalmer53
Jhunjhunu64
Karauli17
Pali352
Rajsamand140
SawaiMadhopur26
Sikar231
Tonk171
Udaipur724
Baran59
Bundi5
Ganganagar8
Jalore164
Pratapgarh14
Sirohi130

256947 3180

27302 982

227408 2179

2237 19

DistrictCases
Faridabad867
Sonipat404
Ambala93
Bhiwani60
CharkiDadri43
Fatehabad38
Gurugram2950
Hisar98
Jhajjar114
Jind38
Kaithal48
Karnal104
Kurukshetra55
Nuh68
Palwal120
Panchkula39
Panipat78
Rohtak145
Sirsa50
Yamunanagar19
Mahendragarh47
Rewari56

226611 2122

20778

203517 2267

2316 25

DistrictCases
Agra933
Aligarh215
Amroha80
Bareilly17
Bijnor157
Bulandshahr166
Firozabad190
Gautam Buddha Nagar1119
Kanpur Nagar286
Lucknow386
Mathura129
Meerut504
Moradabad252
Muzaffarnagar117
Rae Bareli78
Rampur203
Saharanpur298
Sant Kabeer Nagar132
Varanasi243
Auraiya37
Ayodhya120
Azamgarh138
Baghpat68
Bahraich73
Balrampur49
Banda27
Basti214
Bhadohi60
Budaun23
Etah52
Etawah46
Ghaziabad794
Ghazipur159
Gonda59
Gorakhpur166
Hapur225
Hardoi49
Jalaun41
Jaunpur194
Jhansi41
Kannauj69
Kasganj16
Kaushambi6
Mainpuri46
Mau48
Mirzapur22
Pilibhit15
Pratapgarh15
Prayagraj30
Sambhal116
Shamli40
Shravasti23
Sitapur32
Sultanpur97
Unnao42
Ambedkar Nagar92
Amethi206
Ballia60
Barabanki168
Chandauli38
Chitrakoot4
Deoria143
Farrukhabad36
Fatehpur3
Hamirpur3
Hathras43
Kanpur Dehat4
Kheri72
Kushi Nagar67
Lalitpur3
Maharajganj85
Mahoba3
Shahjahanpur25
Siddharth Nagar159
Sonbhadra10

535449 2094

25422 546

502353 1518

7674 30

DistrictCases
Central4817
East2472
New Delhi3405
North3059
North East1914
North West5463
Shahdara1580
South2329
South East2446
South West2391
West4768

551262 5475

38734 447

503717 4937

8811 91

DistrictCases
Dhubri30
Goalpara19
Marigaon50
Baksa14
Barpeta28
Biswanath16
Bongaigaon12
Cachar80
Charaideo29
Chirang6
Darrang20
Dhemaji47
Dibrugarh61
Dima Hasao86
Golaghat203
Hailakandi57
Hojai89
Jorhat24
Kamrup42
Kamrup Metro276
KarbiAnglong13
Karimganj85
Kokrajhar37
Lakhimpur57
Majuli2
Nagaon143
Nalbari23
Sivasagar20
Sonitpur27
South SalmaraMancachar4
Tinsukia84
Udalguri28
West KarbiAnglong5

212171 150

3285 8

207908 142

978

DistrictCases
East District3
North District0
South District3
West District0

4871 52

268 32

4501 20

102

DistrictCases
Buxar134
Gaya115
Munger188
Patna279
Rohtas256
Arwal52
Aurangabad75
Banka134
Begusarai243
Bhagalpur266
Bhojpur103
Darbhanga143
Gopalganj123
Jehanabad178
Kaimur (bhabua)105
Lakhisarai72
Madhepura82
Madhubani199
Nalanda123
Nawada122
PurbiChamparan138
Purnia135
Saran101
Siwan139
Vaishali87
Araria68
Jamui47
Katihar175
Khagaria253
Kishanganj75
Muzaffarpur96
Pashchim Champaran57
Saharsa88
Samastipur139
Sheikhpura118
Sheohar20
Sitamarhi73
Supaul87

232235 696

5390 165

225602 525

1243 6

DistrictCases
24 Paraganas North1031
24 Paraganas South281
Darjeeling97
Howrah1435
Jalpaiguri88
Kalimpong18
Kolkata2777
Maldah235
Medinipur East153
Medinipur West159
Hooghly604
Murshidabad125
Nadia139
Paschim Bardhaman70
Purba Bardhaman130
Alipurduar39
Bankura116
Birbhum206
Coochbehar210
Dinajpur Dakshin50
Dinajpur Uttar216
Jhargram9
Purulia66

470498 3507

24670

437604 3537

8224 52

DistrictCases
South Andamans33
Nicobars1
North And Middle Andaman1

4682 5

130

4491 12

61

DistrictCases
Pondicherry111
Karaikal2
Mahe4
Yanam0

36840 20

544 4

35687 16

609

DistrictCases
Anjaw0
Changlang31
Dibang Valley0
East Kameng0
East Siang1
Kamle0
KraDaadi0
KurungKumey0
Leparada0
Lohit3
Longding0
Lower Dibang Valley0
Lower Siang0
Lower Subansiri0
Namsai2
PakkeKessang1
Papum Pare8
Shi Yomi0
Siang0
Tawang1
Tirap0
Upper Siang1
Upper Subansiri0
West Kameng0
West Siang1

16204 30

926

15229 72

49

DistrictCases
Dimapur20
Kiphire3
Kohima7
Longleng0
Mokokchung0
Mon8
Peren2
Phek1
Tuensang3
Wokha0
Zunheboto0

11060 69

1402

9595 132

63 2

DistrictCases
Dadra And Nagar Haveli20

3328 1

33

3293 3

2

DistrictCases
Ranchi148
Bokaro16
Deoghar5
Dhanbad32
Garhwa80
Giridih19
Hazaribagh110
Jamtara2
Koderma58
Simdega48
Chatra1
Dumka5
East Singhbum170
Godda2
Gumla28
Khunti10
Latehar14
Lohardaga8
Pakur4
Palamu27
Ramgarh75
Sahebganj0
SaraikelaKharsawan20
West Singhbhum21

108388 230

2169 9

105258 218

961 3

DistrictCases
Gomati74
North Tripura14
Dhalai196
Khowai24
Sepahijala174
South Tripura53
Unakoti49
West Tripura45

32610 32

741

31499 58

370

DistrictCases
Kargil77
LehLadakh43

8228 109

961 75

7154 29

113 5

DistrictCases
Anantnag395
Bandipora175
Shopian255
Srinagar300
Baramulla271
Budgam110
Ganderbal37
Jammu138
Kathua53
Kulgam295
Kupwara231
Rajouri39
Ramban151
Reasi26
Samba25
Udhampur155
Mirpur0
Muzaffarabad0
Doda27
Kishtwar10
Poonch35
Pulwama108

108306 487

5275 11

101363 471

1668 5

DistrictCases
Chamba29
Hamirpur117
Kangra105
Sirmaur11
Solan32
Una41
Bilaspur21
Kinnaur2
Kullu4
Lahaul And Spiti0
Mandi21
Shimla10

37497 931

7878 3

29020 914

599 14

DistrictCases
Jalandhar297
Ludhiana293
Patiala132
Amritsar485
Barnala25
Faridkot74
Firozepur50
Gurdaspur154
Hoshiarpur140
Kapurthala44
Mansa31
Moga65
Pathankot86
S.A.S Nagar137
Sangrur107
Shahid Bhagat Singh Nagar (Nawanshahr)99
Sri Muktsar Sahib71
Tarn Taran163
Bathinda60
Fatehgarh Sahib57
Fazilka53
Rupnagar (Ropar)74

149278 843

7479 350

137089 467

4710 26

DistrictCases
Haridwar94
Dehradun370
Nainital323
Almora71
Bageshwar31
Chamoli36
Champawat45
PauriGarhwal36
Pithoragarh43
Rudraprayag30
Tehri Garhwal110
Udam Singh Nagar83
Uttar Kashi24

72997 355

4682 24

67119 320

1196 11

DistrictCases
Bishnupur7
Chandel5
Churachandpur32
Imphal East10
Imphal West21
Jiribam3
Kakching2
Kamjong5
Kangpokpi26
Noney1
Pherzawl3
Senapati6
Tamenglong2
Tengnoupal9
Thoubal18
Ukhrul4

24292 159

3245

20798 158

249 4

DistrictCases
Chandigarh313

17051 126

1169 42

15612 80

270 4

DistrictCases
East Khasi Hills22
East Garo Hills0
East Jaintia Hills0
North Garo Hills1
Ribhoi0
South Garo Hills0
South West Garo Hills4
South West Khasi Hills0
West Garo Hills5
West Jaintia Hills1
West Khasi Hills1

11581 68

947 32

10524 36

110

DistrictCases
Aizawl10
Champhai0
Hnahthial0
Khawzawl0
Kolasib11
Lawngtlai2
Lunglei2
Mamit8
Saiha0
Saitual1
Serchhip0

3788 23

431

3352 33

5

DistrictCases
Lakshadweep District0

0

0

0

0