The rocky road to food security

Aug 16 2013, 11:36 IST
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SummaryFood security, DBT and many others policies will exist for years.

believe that there are five things that the central as well as the state governments need to do differently to achieve better policy outcomes.

1. The need for disproportionate time thinking through the ‘how’: It is just not enough to say what needs to be done; it is critical to say how it will be done. How will a state go from its current HH based ration card list categorised as AAY, BPL, APL and perhaps a couple of other additional state defined categories to a central government determined number of individual beneficiaries now categorised only as AAY and priority? How should a state or district think about moving from benefits given out in the current manner to DBTs? What are the alternative routes to make this happen? Which one is appropriate for each state or district? What challenges are likely to be faced in the process of doing this? What exception management tools may be needed?

Unfortunately, none of these are included in our policy documents. At best a set of broad and often very tactical guidelines are sent to states weeks/months after the policy has been issued and often this is only weeks/months prior to the deadline for full scale implementation. Resultant poorly thought through, stop-gap solutions are implemented on the ground that obviously have many issues—thus not meeting the original objectives, inconveniencing the beneficiaries in multiple ways and opening up the policy itself to significant criticism.

2. Improved ‘technical/process capability’ all along the command chain: In order to achieve 1, what is required is strong technical and process design capability across the hierarchy for robust design and implementation. Currently, quite often, the senior administrators/bureaucrats are tasked with this. It is important to recognise that they have significant business-as-usual responsibility, are always being pulled in multiple directions and may/may not have domain expertise depending upon the length of time they have held the portfolio. Because of these constraints this constituency is unlikely to be able to develop robust implementation guidelines in a matter of days/weeks and also oversee the implementation at the ground level.

Hence, for far-reaching and broad-based policy measures, it is critical to develop dedicated technical/process design capability at all levels. At the centre and state level for option evaluation and design of the implementation plans and at the district/block level for local customisation of solution and robust implementation. Unfortunately, often enough this task of design and implementation is outsourced

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