In a move that echoes a plan adopted by Afghanistan in an attempt to stop grooms from spending all their money on wedding festivities, India may restrict food waste by regulating lavish wedding celebrations. Because the country’s economy has been growing at a rapid rate, more and more people are being propelled into the middle class and can afford extremely decadent weddings. But the inflation that has accompanied this economic growth means that the poor have suffered from rising food prices, and may have even more difficulty affording enough to eat.
In shocking estimates from the Indian government, 15 percent of “food grains” were “wasted” at weddings and their accompanying celebrations. The government wants to restrict the amount of food that can be served to guests and give the excess food to the poor.
“We believe we can preserve foodgrains for the poor and needy of this country by restricting its use at such extravagant and luxurious social functions,” explained the food and consumer affairs minister.
But the legislation has critics, who say that this is not the most effective way of reducing food waste and channeling excess food to the poor. “You should try and control wastage where it can actually be effective – from farm to storage during transport and in FCI godowns and from there to the public distribution system (PDS) outlets. It’s ridiculous to let foodgrains rot in godowns and try and control weddings,” said one opposition leader. “The government has huge stocks of foodgrains in FCI godowns. They should improve the distribution network.”
It seems like both sides could be on to something, though. Certainly, weddings can be ostentatious and extravagant shows of wealth that inevitable waste an enormous amount of food and other resources, and perhaps they should be curbed (although the role of government regulation here still seems fuzzy to me). Some of this seems to have more to do with moral outrage over the way the newly moneyed is spending their cash. A congressional MP declared his support for the move, saying, “Extravagance in weddings should be controlled. It’s a vulgar display of wealth.” That sounds less like concern for the poor and more like distaste for the rich.
But the government shouldn’t just try to control how people organize events, they also need to be responsible for how they distribute food, and it’s entirely possible that those networks are corrupt and inefficient. So perhaps they can do both – encourage people to cut down on lavish spending, but also improve their own internal channels for bringing food to the poor.
Photo from Fotopedia.