These include the Food Security, Mining and Anti-Corruption Bills. With the Food Security bill, the number of people entitled to lower-cost food such as rice and wheat will be extended. Over 700 million Indians are food insecure and the aim of the new bill is to extend subsidised food supplies to cover half of urban families and three-quarters of India’s rural households.
However, the food distribution scheme in India has long suffered from high levels of corruption. In the past, much of the grain meant for the poorest families has been siphoned off. Regional officials have been tasked with ensuring improvements are made and corruption is reduced. Many hope the new anti-corruption bill will support those efforts, since one of its measures includes the setting up of a powerful authority to prosecute corrupt officials.
The topic of corruption has dominated the media for months in India, after the misallocation of mobile phone licences hit the news. More recently, discussion about corruption has centred round illegal mining practices in the country. Only this week, a nun who fought against powerful coal mining interests threatening villagers in the eastern Jharkhand state, was beaten and axed to death. Activists and whistle-blowers are frequent victims of violence. With the new bills, politicians are proposing further protection for those who report acts of corruption.
Millions of ordinary Indians have been coming out in support of recent protests against corruption. The number of popular protests has died down, but the government knows the importance of the issue, and not just because of popular opinion. India recognises its growing economy is being affected by corruption scandals, which make the country look unstable and unattractive to foreign investors and businesses. At the recent World Economic Forum India summit, held in Mumbai, delegates were keen to talk about how corruption could be tackled for the good of both rich and poor Indians. One talk on the issue was called “The Indian Spring”.
Business leaders see social and domestic improvements as vital to India’s stability and future growth. Industry leaders have warned the country’s politicians that they need to quicken reform and better governance if the economy is to continue prospering. And development among India’s masses is seen as a key component. Social and economic experts say that only if the needs of all India’s 1.1 billion population are met, will India be assured a bright future.