Stale concept

at a time when the country is yet to recover from the impact of a drought and the consequent problem of hunger, the Union government has proposed to revise the grain bank scheme. Ironically, what could have been an effective instrument to weed out starvation from India"s most poverty stricken tribal areas, is being seen as just another attempt to repackage the failed pilot project. The earlier scheme was started by the Union ministry of tribal affairs (mta) in 1996-1997.

Under the pilot project, till 2001 Rs 1024.38 lakh was released by the mta to the Tribal Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Limited (trifed), which markets minor forest produce to set up 1876 grain banks. The banks propose to ensure food security in the lean agricultural period (May-September). However, ministry sources say that only 534 banks have been set up till 2001. The new Rs 250-crore proposal seeks to include more villages, especially, those under the drought-prone area programme. Currently awaiting the approval of the expenditure finance commission and the Union cabinet’s nod, the revised scheme will target 25,000 villages across the country. The finance commission, under the Union finance ministry, is the body which clears grants for projects in India.

According to S Chatterjee, joint secretary in the mta, each village has been allocated Rs 1 lakh to set up grain banks under the plan. The government aims to initially provide 0.2 tonnes of grain per family to start the bank