Saturday, December 8, 2007

Kerala: A Minister’s magic solution to food shortage

Kerala is facing a shortage of rice. The price of this staple food has gone up by 50%. Many reasons can be found for this unfortunate situation but the immediate provocation is that the Centre cut down the rice allocation to Kerala because the State has been lifting only a small portion of what was set apart for it in the recent years.

The State Government was aware of this reduction in the quota, but kept silent. There was a hollow confidence that they could manage without help from New Delhi. But feeding the people of a State requires planning. The market forces are beyond the control of the State. Then there are the logistics, lead time, storage, distribution.

Historically, Kerala has depended on import of rice from the neighboring States to supplement home production. Apparently, the bureaucrats are not bending over backwards to help the people’s representatives who have been insulting them. And so the mess.

But a Minister of the Kerala Government has a wonder solution to the problem. Nothing so complicated as eating more tapioca or wheat: that’s old fashioned. Forget rice, switch over to eggs and chicken meat(which are mostly imported from Tamil Nadu), says the man. Add a glass of milk for good measure. His argument has logic. Poultry is healthier than rice. Almost every household in Kerala has chickens that lay eggs; some have cows too. So there it is – food at your door steps!

Perhaps the Minister is so insulated from the people that he forgot Kerala housewives rear chickens for extra income that does not go directly to the liquor shops. In his preoccupation with matters of State he may not have thought where the eggs would come if the hen is killed and eaten. Fortunately he did not suggest slaughtering the cows also.

Don’t bother the Minister with inconvenient questions. If you do, the answer may be on the lines of Robert Blenchley. When the U-boat menace to Allied shipping became acute during World War II, the famous American comedian called a press conference stating that he had an easy solution to the problem.

The foolproof method he suggested was: heat the Atlantic Ocean to boiling point which would force the U-boats to surface. Shoot them when they come above the water level. One reporter asked how the ocean was to be boiled. The prompt answer was: those are minor details for the technicians to take care.

So don’t forget the menu – two eggs made to choice (pepper is okay with it but go easy on salt), chicken curry (check recipe books), and a glass of hot or cold milk with or without sugar depending whether you are diabetic or not.

I am sure that the Minister meant it all as a joke. I laughed anyway.


Also see: Kerala: Of monkeys and nuts

No comments: