|August 29, 2012
While The Brits are about to tax their Super-Rich, it appears one of the old colonies remains in full anti-Robin-Hood mode. Nothing surprises us much anymore but this note from Bloomberg too the proverbial biscuit. In the "most mean-spirited, ruthlessly executed corruption," India's politicians and their criminal syndicates have looted as much as $14.5bn in food from one province alone. 57,000 tons of food meant for the devastatingly poor of the Uttar Pradesh region is sat in a government storage facility five football fields long. The 'theft' has blunted the nation's only weapon against mass starvation and as Supreme Court commissioner Naresh Saxena notes: "What I find even more shocking is the lack of willingness in trying to stop it," as the Minister for Food, who stands charged with attempted murder, kidnapping, armed robbery and electoral fraud, has diverted more than 80 percent of the food. "Who is a person who holds a below poverty line ration card? A person of no influence; you can just tell him to buzz off." But there is growing tension "We could just storm the place, and every one of us could get a bag of rice each. Who would stop us?"
India has run the world’s largest public food distribution system for the poor since the failure of two successive monsoons led to the creation of the Food Corporation of India in 1965.
This scam, like many others involving politicians in India, remains unpunished. A state police force beholden to corrupt lawmakers, an underfunded federal anti-graft agency and a sluggish court system have resulted in five overlapping investigations over seven years -- and zero convictions.
Even after accounting for the wastage, only 41 percent of the food set aside for feeding the poor reached households nationwide, but in Uttar Pradesh, where the minister of food stands charged with attempted murder, kidnapping, armed robbery and electoral fraud, the diversion was more than 80 percent in 2005.
"This is the most mean-spirited, ruthlessly executed corruption because it hits the poorest and most vulnerable in society," said Naresh Saxena, who, as a commissioner to the nation’s Supreme Court, monitors hunger-based programs across the country. "What I find even more shocking is the lack of willingness in trying to stop it."
"Who is a person who holds a below poverty line ration card? A person of no influence; you can just tell him to buzz off."
"Is the scam still ongoing? It may be," said Bhatnagar. "But that is not my concern."
but there is growing tension:
"We dream about robbing it," said Vaish, the activist, as the men and women around her laughed. "We could just storm the place, and every one of us could get a bag of rice each. Who would stop us?"