BeyondHeadlines News Desk
Right to Food Campaign is alarmed over the media reports which say that government is considering a plan as per which the National Food Security Bill will not cover 33% population across the states irrespective of their poverty levels.
The changes in the Bill were proposed at a meeting convened by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh with his senior Cabinet colleagues.
Right to Food Campaign has written to the Prime Minister, strongly opposing certain changes on the grounds that it makes the Bill ‘minimalist and unacceptable’
Here is the full text of the letter:
Dr. Manmohan Singh
Government of India
The Right to Campaign is alarmed by today’s media reports (http://www.indianexpress.com/news/food-bill-govt-looking-at-flexible-plan-may-exclude-33-population/976392/) that indicate that the Government continues to have a minimalist vision for the National Food Security Bill. The Right to Food Campaign has been demanding a comprehensive food security legislation that takes in account the production, procurement, storage and distributional aspects of food security along with making special provisions for vulnerable groups such as children, migrants, the aged and disabled. We have repeatedly stated that the current draft of the Bill is minimalist and unacceptable as it seeks to legislate inequity by imposing a Targeted Public Distribution System instead of creating universal entitlements.
In this context, the proposal to do away with the multiple categories (priority, general, etc.) and move towards a uniform entitlement for everyone, except for the rich who will be excluded, is a step forward. However, if as reported in the press, the category to be excluded is as large as 33% of the population across the country, then this would remain a form of targeting, with many of the needy actually being left out. This still falls far short from the principle of universalisation. Exclusion should rather be based on a few, easily identifiable criteria such as permanent government employees, income tax payees and so on.
Further, we do not see the logic in common entitlement being as low as 25kgs per month per household under this new proposal. The Government cannot continue to argue that there is not enough grain when the FCI godowns are overflowing, with the current food grain stocks being around 80 million tonnes. The last three years of UPA rule have seen food inflation spiraling to highest levels in three decades. The Food Ministry has been at the centre of the most scandalous mismanagement of food grains, with huge food stocks rotting in the godowns and set to be exported for consumption by cattle in industrialised countries.
India’s poor track record on food and nutrition, and indeed all the social sector indicators along with its patently over-stated ambitions of being a global leader, has made the Government a laughing stock internationally. It cannot be accepted that the Indian Government can afford to contribute $10 billion to the International Monetary Fund to bail out irresponsible European bankers, while it hides behind the excuse of fiscal constraints to explain its inability to guarantee food security to its citizens. In a situation where 46% of the country’s children remain malnourished such an attitude of the Government is indeed shameful.
We have consistently demanded the strengthening of the NFSB by expanding its scope. The PDS entitlements must be universal and quantities must be linked to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) recommended daily allowances (14kgs per adult). In addition, the PDS must also provide pulses and cooking oil. We believe that introducing such an expanded PDS would be the most appropriate way of dealing with the current contradiction of excess stocks and widespread hunger.
We once again reiterate the core demands of the RTF campaign for the National Food Security Act, and hope that the revised NFSB will include all of these:
- A Universal PDS, which includes cereals, millets, pulses and oil so that all especially the food insecure, the vulnerable, and the deprived get included. The quantity should be decided on the basis of ICMR norms per adult consumption.
- Appropriate MSPs and decentralised procurement of rice, wheat and millets.
- Universalisation with quality of ICDS including the provision of nutritious locally prepared food for all children.
- Entitlements including social security pensions for vulnerable persons – the aged, single women, and persons with disabilities, school mid-day meals, maternity entitlements, and community kitchens in urban areas must be ensured.
(National Convenor, Steering Committee on behalf of the Right to Food Campaign)