A (not so) new antidote to food insecurity

WHEREAS the agricultural situation in the State is constantly watched by the State Government, and relief measures as warranted by the situation are provided as soon as signs of scarcity conditions are apparent, so that there is no scope for famine conditions to develop

This is from Maharashtra in 1963, which passed “An Act to delete the term “famine” from all laws in the State of Maharashtra” 

I came across this amazing piece of progressive legislation via P. Sainath, who is clearly not amused – 

Maybe the government, the National Advisory Council and other assorted enthusiasts of the Food Security Bill can learn from Maharashtra about moving towards ending hunger altogether.

In 1963, the government of Maharashtra ended famine forever in the State. It did this without adding a morsel to anyone’s diet. It did so simply by passing an Act in the Legislature that deleted the word ‘famine’ from all laws of the State….

The next para says the term ‘famine’ “has now become obsolete, and requires therefore to be deleted” (emphasis added) from “other laws on the subject in their application to the State.” It decrees that “for the words ‘famine or acute scarcity’ the word ‘scarcity’ shall be substituted,” in all laws of the State. Lucky Maharashtra — it can’t ever have acute scarcity either. 

…By slaying famine and acute scarcity on paper, a government kills its own responsibility towards citizens, mainly poor and hungry ones, in times of crisis. Its burden becomes less. It can concentrate (especially in Maharashtra) on boosting the Indian Premier League and its billionaires.

Way back in 1963, Maharashtra really got it! Before anyone else…Certainly way before Amartya Sen came out with his famine-democracy link 

Unfortunately, less than a decade later, Maharashtra was struck by wide-spread scarcity, what the rest of the world would simply call a famine.  


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