In a country where thousands go to bed hungry, wastage of food is morally unacceptable. But what is also morally unacceptable is when a government takes upon itself the onerous responsibility of fixing portion sizes of dishes in high end hotels and restaurants. A fortnight after Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed concern about wastage of food in his monthly Mann Ki Baat radio programme, minister of consumer affairs, food and public distribution Ram Vilas Paswan told HT that his ministry is drafting a questionnaire for hotels and restaurants to explain what dish sizes they should serve to a customer. “If a person can eat only two prawns, why should he or she be served six? If a person eats two idlis, why serve four! It’s wastage of food and also money people pay for something that they don’t eat,” he explained.
When Mr Modi took over in 2014, he had promised ‘minimum government, maximum governance’. Since then, however, there have been several interferences in lives of the citizenry that could have been left untouched. Take for example, food. The central government and some of the BJP states have been overtly keen to ban beef even though it is a dietary-cultural practice in many communities and also a revenue earner. If one sees the ‘competitive federalism’ that has begun over banning cow slaughter, it may seem that are no other issues that need the attention of these governments. We would actually want such competition to happen among states on eradicating poverty or reducing maternal mortality.
The government should also look within before cracking the whip on restaurants. How much food grains does its Food Corporation of India waste every year? Between 2013-16, the Food Corporation of India allowed 46,658 tonnes of foodgrains to rot in its 1,889 warehouses across the country, while another 143.74 tonnes were reported stolen. Together, this could have fed nearly eight lakh people from priority families under the National Food Security Act for a year. Who will answer for this criminal wastage when India tops the world’s hunger list with 194 million people?