More than 500 people of the Right to Food Campaign sitting at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi rejected the National Food Security Bill 2013 which was passed by the cabinet of the UPA Government today evening and will now be placed in the Parliament in this session.
NO TIME FRAME FOR IMPLEMENTATION
People were shocked to learn that according to the Bill that was passed, the law will not be applied in one stroke. The language of the law is that different dates may be appointed for different states and different provisions for the implementation of the Act. This clearly means that there is no time frame for full implementation or objective criteria for phased implementation. It means the government in power has the choice to decide which state and what provisions need to be implemented. We condemn this as being against the fundamental rights of the people and the federal nature of the Indian state. This also clearly shows that the Government is not really committed towards ensuring the end of food insecurity of the teeming millions of the country.
The Campaign feels strongly that there is a basic flaw in the framework of the Bill as there is a complete absence of guarantees for farmers’ livelihoods, increasing production, guaranteeing Minimum Support Price along with decentralised procurement and decentralised storage. These issues remain unaddressed and only lip service has been given to them by putting them in Schedule III (enabling provisions) of the Bill.
PUBLIC DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM (PDS) A MOCKERY
The Bill entitles only 67 per cent of the population to subsidised foodgrains under the PDS. This would continue the legacy of dividing the population into APL – BPL categories and the associated problem of unfair exclusion of food insecure households from the PDS.
Only the 2.5 crore households currently covered under the Antyodaya Anna Yojana (10 per cent of the country’s total population) will get 35kg of foodgrains a month. The rest of the population entitled to PDS will get only 5 kg of foodgrains per person per month. However, according to ICMR norms, the monthly foodgrain requirement of an adult is 14 kg, and of a child is 7 kg. The monthly provisioning for only 5 kg of cereal per person not only makes a mockery of the intent of the bill, but also goes against the Supreme Court order which entitles every BPL household to 35 kg of foodgrains a month under the PDS. Is this a Food Security Bill or a Food Insecurity Bill, we would like to ask. Especially when the godowns are bursting with foodgrains this entitlement could have been raised.
The absence of entitlements to pulses and oil in the PDS shows that the Bill fails to ensure good nutrition of the county’s population.
TWO CHILD NORM IN MATERNAL ENTITLEMENTS AN INTENT TO CRIMINALISING WOMEN WITH MORE THAN TWO CHILDREN
The Standing Committee recommendation of two child norm for maternal entitlements for lactating mothers after delivery is accepted, although they have tried to be ambiguous and state that it will be according to the specifications of the Central Government scheme. As the scheme has two child norm, so it stays. This clause is almost criminalising women and higher order children by denying them this maternal entitlement.
ICDS AN INITIATIVE TO HAND OVER CHILDREN’S FOOD TO CONTRACTORS
While the Campaign is relieved that the Standing Committee recommendation of removing ICDS from the Bill has been has been rejected by the Cabinet, the continuation of Schedule II for ICDS and Midday Meals is very disturbing. This retains energy dense food and nutritional standards of the Women and Child Development Ministry, which can only be met if there is centralized factory based food production. The orders of the Supreme Court of keeping private contractors out of food schemes for children would be reversed as this opens the door for contractors and companies in supply of food in ICDS, in Take Home Rations in particular. Also the effort to provide local food through Self Help Groups etc also finishes.
NOT EVEN FOR THE DESTITUTES
The complete omission of community kitchens, starvation protocol and other support to vulnerable and destitute shows the complete lack of commitment of the Government towards the poorest who need the cheap food most.
Grievance redressal continues to begin at the district level which is ridiculous as people with grievances need redressal at the panchayat and gram sabha level.
Since UID and cash transfers were there in the original 2011 Bill, and there are no amendment related to them, they continue to be there. The Campaign demands their omission.
Tomorrow (20 March) members of the Right to Food Campaign will meet members of the Parliament and give them 165 gm of foodgrains (the daily consumption of PDS grain by a person entitled to 5kg of foodgrains a month) to show how paltry the provisions of the Bill are.
Also, a press conference will take place tomorrow at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi at 3:30 pm.
Kavita Srivastava, Anuradha Talwar, Father Jothi SJ, Ashok Khandelwal, Balram, Neeta Hardekar, Rupesh and Sejal Dand
(On behalf of the Right to Food Campaign)