A case for universal EGA and PDS
THE ARGUMENTS for a universal, not targeted, National Rural Employment Guarantee Act as well as for a universal Public Distribution System (PDS) are far stronger than most people realise. Rural India is in deep and continuing distress. Unemployment continues to rise. Output growth continues to fall; last year's gross foodgrains output was 205 million tonnes, or only 162 kg net output per head of population. Loss of purchasing power owing to drastic reductions in the State's spending on rural development during the last decade continues and is reflected in a steep fall in per head foodgrains absorption which is now one of the lowest in the world at around 154 kg, for all-India, 20 kg lower than a mere six years ago, and it is lower still in village India where calorie intake per head continues to decline. Forty years of successful effort to raise foodgrains absorption through the Green Revolution and planned expansionary policies has been wiped out in a single decade of deflationary economic reforms and India is back to the foodgrains availability level of 50 years ago.