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Govt may seek corporate tips on food security bill

business Updated: Jan 20, 2012 02:30 IST
Zia Haq
Zia Haq
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

India hardly pulls off a scheme without squandering money or time. So, food minister KV Thomas doesn't want to take chances, given that he could be squarely blamed if the expensive food security bill becomes a reckless fiscal sop.

Thomas is now likely to float a proposal to hire a top-rank consultancy firm to draw up a "corporate-style blueprint" to help the government get the food law's implementation right. The first backing for such a proposal, surprisingly, could come from the Planning Commission, which finds wasteful spending insufferable.

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"We may employ a consultant for a blueprint and framing of rules for the food security law so that funds are efficiently spent," Thomas told HT. The food bill is currently being reviewed by a parliamentary standing committee, as is required under law-making.

Expanding food handouts to nearly 800 million people, under the bill, at less than half the market price undoubtedly entails a risk of its own. Amid a clear slowdown-industrial output has shrunk by 4.5%-the bill has drawn much criticism. Yet, India is one of the world's worst performers on hunger.

Thomas's proposal stems from concerns that the bureaucracy may lack the expertise needed to ensure that the world's largest food-guaranteeing law is resourcefully implemented.

The food ministry is likely to frame the "terms of references" for the proposed consultant soon. The consultant could also be asked to suggest ways to ensure which areas of the pilferage-prone food distribution chain needs to be fixed. It could also be asked to suggest a software-enabled book-keeping mechanism for delivering cash handouts, which the bill provides for.

Analysts say such consultancy is welcome, but getting India's "steel-frame" bureaucracy, especially in the states, to deliver could be easier said than done.