Given that this is a country of such fast economic growth, it is vital we ensure that nobody goes hungry
~ Harsh Mander
statesman news service
KOLKATA, 8 JUNE: The Central government should not move an Ordinance to bring in the National Food Security Bill without a debate, activists from the Right to Food campaign said today.
“This is a democracy. Several parties exist in Parliament. Everybody has a voice. You should hear from those,” said Ms Kavita Srivastava, convener of the Steering Committee of the Right to Food Campaign, at the Kolkata Press Club this evening.
“If the Bill is not discussed in this monsoon session, we will hold a protest in Delhi,” said Ms Anuradha Talwar, member of the Right to Food Campaign.
The campaign will also continue to press for eight amendments to plug holes in the “absolutely flawed” framework in the Bill, activists said.
The campaigners’ demands include specifying a time frame for rolling out entitlements in the Bill, a strong grievance redressal mechanism and a universal public distribution system.
The Bill entitles only 67 per cent of the population to subsidised food grain through the public distribution system. The Right to Food campaign has demanded that nobody should be excluded.
Campaigners have also taken issue with the lack of attention paid to procurement. "There is basic flaw in the framework as there is complete absence of guarantees for farmers’ livelihoods, increasing production, guaranteeing minimum support price along with decentralised procurement and storage,” said Ms Talwar.
Mr Harsh Mander, Special Commissioner to the Supreme Court of India for the Right to Food case, said there are both economic and ethical reasons for making the government responsible for providing food to citizens.
"There is a lot of talk about India’s “demographic dividend”, but when you consider that every second child is malnourished, you realise that many children will not reach their potential," he said.
"The Bill needs to be seen as an investment in India’s greatest resource, which is its poor people,” said Mr Mander.
He also had a “deeper ethical argument”. Given that “this is a country of such fast economic growth and so much wealth,” he said, it is vital that we ensure that nobody goes hungry.