Today’s Wall Street Journal article on Philippines says that tens of thousands of protesters turned out there for an anti-corruption rally after the country’s Commission on Audit found that $140 million had been questionably diverted. The story may be worse in India. An estimated 90 lakh, crore Rupees (1800 billion US$) of corruption money has been stashed away in foreign banks in the recent years according to RTI (Right To Information) reports filed by Indian activists. Food aid is an easy breeding ground for corruption. It can still be robbed at gunpoint by governments, criminals, and warlords alike, and sold for a profit. Corrupt officials pocket 80% of the subsidized food aid to poor in Bihar, a state of India, according to a Forbes report from 2007.
The state run Food Corporation of India with its Public Distribution System, consisting of 50,000 fair price shops is notoriously corrupt. According to Inter Press Agency: August 13, 2013 article, 50% of the grain channeled through the PDS is sold in the open market at high profits and exported to the neighboring countries. Traders even sell subsidized grain right back to the government’s procurement agents in connivance with corrupt officials.
|Food production increased 50% in 2 decades but poverty has gone up|
With the general elections around the corner the introduction of a right to food is becoming a lively political issue in India. The bill is challenging political parties to demonstrate their commitment to the poor voters who can be wooed to vote. The timing of the bill erases any opportunity to use the right to food bill to address the corruption in the Public Distribution System. The voices of media reporters with foresight are likely to be muffled by traditional media outlets; social media can give these voices a proper hearing. The Filipinos show that citizen protests against corruption can be channeled through the internet. (Picture Credit NYT)