Rupee Depreciation

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How To Feed A Billion. And Why It Pays

Shoma Chaudhury | Aug. 30, 2013, 2:19 AMArticle views - 186

The Food Security Bill is not a spend; it is an investment, crucial for India’s future and growth
On 26 August, after months of wasted sessions, the Lok Sabha finally passed a historic legislation: the Food Security Bill . Many Indians woke two days later to headlines that the rupee had nosedived and the Indian markets had been “food poisoned”. It was a smart phrase. It captured the horror industry and what investors feel about the Bill. But it also epitomised the damaging hysteria and misinformation around it. It captured one of India’s most harsh dividing lines.
In the summer of 2012, I travelled with economists Jean Drèze and Reetika Khera through some of Uttar Pradesh ’s most impoverished districts. They were on a fact-finding mission, going door-to-door in the searing sun, asking people whether they had enough to eat and whether the government’s Public Distribution System (PDS ) reached them. It was a deeply humbling experience. In hut after hut, one was confronted by the sheer absurdity of the Indian situation. In some of the country’s most forsaken landscapes — dust and bare scrub for miles, not even the possibility of employment anywhere — destitute, bone-thin families produced their pink and white ration cards with utter bewilderment. The first, a BPL card — below poverty line — entitled them to rice, wheat, and some sugar. The second, an APL card — above poverty line — got them only some kerosene oil. (How can one satisfy one’s hunger with kerosene, a woman asked in desperation?)
Often, they got neither. But what confused them the most was how one neighbour — living in exactly the same set of debilitating circumstances — had been picked for the pink card; and how others had been cursed with the white. Then, of course, there were dozens of families…...

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