This right to food business is not going to work. I know it’s meant kindly, hearts bleeding profusely for the poor and all that, but it won’t work.
First of all, it’s not really a right to food, it’s just a right to cheap wheat and rice. Those who oppose the whole thing say the real problem in the country is malnutrition, which isn’t going to be solved merely by eating more rice.
Nobody’s going to be satisfied with only cereals — they will, like Oliver, want more.
For instance, if you want to remove malnutrition, you’ll need to give them milk and eggs and fish and perhaps even mutton. You would then need a Right to Eggs, or a Right to Chicken and so on.
Personally, I would like a Right to Pork Vindaloo. And since it’s best to have a balanced diet, we will need a Right to a Three-Course Meal.
That’s apart from dessert, of course and here we’ll need a plethora of rights, ranging all the way from a Right to Rasgullas to a Right to Ice Cream.
It doesn’t end there. What’s the point of having a three-course meal if you’re having it in a squalid mud hut in the countryside or in a hovel atop a gutter in a city.
Nope, you’ll need a Right to A Proper House in which to have your subsidised meal in peace, comfort and hygiene. Which brings me to the point argued by some that the root cause of malnutrition in the country is the lack of sanitation.
That would mean a Right to Toilets and a Working Flush.
You can guess where this is heading. If you want to read the entire list you could try Tom Paine’s The Rights of Man.
But could we really have a Right to Education and a Right to Food and a Right to Health and all that? Who’s going to pay for it?
The problem is: what are the rights that will cajole the people into voting for the Congress, while at the same time keeping government spending low?
The government could extend the Right to Work to everybody, but people aren’t that fond of work. I believe, though, that we may have a solution to this burning issue.
The simplest way out is to give people one undiluted right — the Right to Drink. Not water, of course, nobody wants to drink the polluted water we get. What we need is a Right to Booze.
All it requires is giving every adult a bottle of booze a day. It needn’t be expensive — a bottle of arrack or feni would do. Since it doesn’t matter whether we get our calories from solids or liquids, the booze would boost the population’s calorie intake.
It could be used as a substitute for water, which reduces the risk of water-borne diseases. People could have a diversified diet — feni one day, mahua the next, chhang another day and so forth.
Most importantly, free booze would make the masses immensely happy, allowing them to forget their poverty and their worries. They can party every night, besides sharpening their singing and dancing skills.
The Right to Booze is thus nothing less than a Right to the Pursuit of Happiness, which is enshrined in the US Declaration of Independence.
And in case the government is still not convinced, it’s also a tried and tested method of getting votes.
Manas Chakravarty is Consulting Editor, Mint
Views expressed by the author are personal