According to news stories in recent weeks, the global food crisis, which has become particularly acute in many developing countries, is receiving attention from officials around the world. The skyrocketing cost of rice has fostered food riots—people are finding it nearly impossible to buy enough to eat.
So politicians seem to be paying attention. A senior U.S. Government official, according to the Washington Post last Friday, observed that the crisis “is getting a lot of attention, not just at the White House but throughout the administration.” It is also prompting the focus of politicians in rural India.
On Saturday, the former First Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Nara Chandrababu Naidu, visited a village populated partly by Yanadi people to talk about the food crisis. He was First Minister of the state from 1995 to 2004 and is currently the President of the Telugu Dasam party. He visited Vempadu, a village of 4,000 people, many of whom waited to greet him when he arrived two hours late.
One villager asked him if he could close the local liquor stores, called “belt shops,” where her husband works and spends his wages. She has virtually nothing, she told him, and she lives under the shade of a tree. As any good politician might, he promised that when his party came to power in the next election, less than a year away, he would make sure her problems were solved.
He asked the crowd if they were happy with the rise in the cost of rice. Their response was predictable. The people also complained about the quality of the water they must drink. The politician criticized the current government of the state—the Congress Party—for failing to provide adequate drinking water for the villages, even though they seemed to be quite able to provide beverages to the belt shops.
He also promised, if his party were elected, to provide nine hours of electricity per day to the villages, with three additional hours for backward areas. He also declared he would waive payments on government agricultural loans made to poor people. Three other politicians accompanied the official during his visit to the village.