Jab tak bhukha insaan rahega!! dharti par toofan rahega!!
TO REJECT AND EXPOSE THE VACUOUS NATIONAL FOOD SECURITY BILL AND REASSERT OUR DEMAND FOR A COMPREHENSIVE FOOD SECURITY ACT
PUBLIC ACTION IN THREE PHASES IN MARCH 2013
4 – 8 March: At Jantar Mantar with the Pension Parishad Dharna
11 – 17 March: Public Action in States, Consultations with MPs
18 – 22 March: Vishal Dharna in Delhi
From the 25th to 28th of February, many of us from the steering committee met in Delhi. We met Ministers, including the Minister for Food and Consumer Affairs, GOI, several members of parliament from the opposition parties, to understand what they were thinking and also presented our critique of the Bill. We also planned the nature and modality of public action against the present bill and recommendations of the Standing Committee.
This circular is in two parts. Part I gives the critique of the bill and part II relates to the campaign’s plans in the month of March
PART I: CRITIQUE OF STANDING COMMITTEE RECOMMENDATIONS ON THE NFSB
Since it is very clear that the Government is gearing up to the enactment of a token food security bill, it was decided that we should gather in Delhi in large numbers to expose the vacuous nature of this bill and to demand a comprehensive food security law. Presently the Government bill is more Bhukhmari Suraksha than Khadya Suraksha as it actually undermines the core issues of food security. In this backdrop it was felt that we had rather not have a law than have one which:
– undermines the food rights of children and pregnant and lactating women by not guaranteeing ICDS services provided through Anganwadi centres
– leaves out a large population of people from the PDS by not universalising it
– provisions only 5kg of foodgrain per person per month through the PDS, which is only half of what is required on an average in a month according to the ICMR norms
– lowers the grain allocation in the PDS from the present allocation
– excludes the vulnerable, homeless, destitute people from accessing community kitchens by not provisioning for it under the garb that it is difficult to identify them
– leaves out the provisions of pensions for the aged, infirm and single women
– restricts maternity entitlements to only the first two children of a woman, thereby also denying children of higher birth order their right to exclusive breastfeeding for six months
– does not guarantee nutrition security as part of food security by making it only a cereal distribution bill
– does not guarantee Minimum Support Price (MSP) as a right or any other incentive and protection to farmers growing food
– does not provide legal safeguards against Genetically Modified (GM) foods, commercial interests in providing food items in the ICDS and midday meals and the provisioning of cash transfers in place of subsidised food
– does not provide for criminal penalties or independent grievance redressal systems.
– dilutes the legal guarantees given by the Supreme Court in the “right to food” case (PUCL vs. Union of India & Ors. CWP 196/2001) over the last 11 years which lay the framework for schemes providing food security in the country and convert provisions of these schemes into legal entitlements.
The Standing Committee’s recommendation of abolishing the divisive APL – BPL distinction in the PDS and proposing uniform pricing of rations is an extremely welcome step. However, the grain requirement for entitling 67 per cent of the country’s population (at 2011 figures) to only 5kg of foodgrains per person per month is only 48.8 million metric tonnes, much less than what is being allocated at present. Thus, this Standing Committee proposal exposes the Government’s intent to reduce the food subsidy and total food allocation. It was also felt that as a strategy we should bring to the fore the Chhattisgarh Food Security Act 2012 which is much more comprehensive than the National Food Security Bill.
PART II: PLAN FOR PUBLIC ACTION
According to the Minister for Food and Consumer Affairs, Prof KV Thomas, whom we met on 25 February, more than 252 amendments have been made to the original Bill which was placed in Parliament in December 2011. He said that the Bill would be placed in the Parliament between 19 to 21March. He added that the Bill would come up for discussion in the two houses when the Parliament reopens after 22 April for 20 days.
The members of the steering committee decided that the public action against this bill would be in two stages. The first stage would be from the 4 – 22 March and the next stage from 22nd April onwards.
Public Action from the 4 to 22 March will be in three phases:
First Phase (4 to 8 March): with the Pension Parishad Dharna
The issue of the National Food Security Bill will be discussed at length at the dharna on 5 March. This period will also be used for meeting MPs and mobilising people for the upcoming dharna.
Second Phase (11 to 16 March): Public Action in States, Consultation with MPs
It was felt that public action must also happen at the state and district levels between 11-17 March. The forms of action can include dharnas, rallies, press conferences and meeting chief ministers, chief secretaries, MPs, district collectors etc regarding the Bill. With the help of CLRA, a consultation with MPs on the Bill is also being planned.
Third Phase (18 to 22 March): Vishal Dharna at Jantar Mantar
This phase should begin with a press conference, followed by public meeting and rally. We could also burn copies of the Bill and the Standing Committee recommendations. We could give the food served in anganwadis to Krishna Tirath, Minister of Women and Child Development and packets with 160gm of foodgrains (daily consumption based on PDS entitlement of 5kg/person/month) to the Minister of Food, K V Thomas, Deputy Chairperson of Planning Commission Montek Singh Alhuwalia, UPA Chairperson, Sonia Gandhi, Vice President of All India Congress Committee, Rahul Gandhi, and other ministers. The monthly amount of Rs 600 under Delhi’s Annashree Yojana can be sent to the state’s Chief Minister and other ministers.
The message should be that the piecemeal, diluted and minimalistic National Food Security Bill of the Government is unacceptable. We want a Bill which entitles a universal PDS which guarantees not only foodgrains, but also oil and pulses; addresses the issues of increasing food production in a sustainable manner, decentralised procurement at remunerative MSPs and local storage, ensures the nutrition security of farmers, women, children, the elderly, persons with disabilities and those in difficult situations such as homelessness and starvation and has a mechanism of a strong, independent and sufficiently decentralised grievance redressal and public vigilance.
We hope that you will join the public action in large numbers.
(On behalf of the Steering Group of the Right to Food Campaign)
Bhojan poshan shikshan, maang raha hai desh ka bachpan!!
APL – BPL khatam karo, sabko ration pension do!!
Sabko pura ration do!! dal, tel, anaaj do!!