MKSS was at the Right to Food Jan Manch held at Jantar Mantar on 29th November 2011. This was in support of a universal PDS system and no cash transfers.
For more information, read Jean Dreze – Kaun Banega Scorepati
The following is the memorandum from the Jan Manch.
29 November 2011
To: All Members of Parliament
National Food Security Act: Memorandum from Right to Food Campaign
Today, 29 November, hundreds of us from around the country have gathered at Jantar Mantar in another effort to voice our demand for a comprehensive National Food Security Act.
During the last two and a half years since June 2001, the Right to Food Campaign has consistently advocated the enactment of a comprehensive National Food Security Act, including not only a universal Public Distribution System but also other measures to protect people’s right to food, such as (1) universal nutrition, health and pre-school education services for children below the age of six years, under ICDS, (2) nutritious, cooked midday meals for all children in the age group of 6-14 years, (3) maternity entitlements and other facilities (e.g. counseling and support for optimal infant and young child feeding) for pregnant and lactating women, (4) special assistance (including social security pensions) for marginalized groups and persons/communities at risk of hunger. Along with this, the Campaign advocates revitalization of local agriculture, assured Minimum Support Prices, decentralized procurement and storage, and the inclusion of pulses, cooking oil and millets in the Public Distribution System.
The Food Ministry’s draft of the National Food Security Bill, posted for comments on the Ministry’s website in September 2011, falls short of all these demands and even trims down the very modest entitlements proposed by the National Advisory Council. The main goal of this draft seems to be to minimize the obligations of the government, restrict people’s entitlements, and avoid any accountability.
We are particularly alarmed by the following aspects of the draft National Food Security Bill:
- The Bill is based on a narrow vision of what is required to ensure food security, restricted mainly to foodgrain rations under the Public Distribution System (PDS).
- Even within that restricted approach, the Bill is deeply flawed. It perpetuates the failed model of “BPL targeting” and threatens to undermine what is already there.
- The bill has reduced the entitlements in the PDS to a mere 7kgs cereals per person per month entitlement if a priority household and 3kgs per person if general. When the ICMR norms state that the quantity consumed per month per adult is 14kgs cereal.
- The Bill neglects the rights of children (particularly children under six), including those – such as universalization of ICDS – already due under Supreme Court orders.
- The grievance redressal provisions are very weak.
- The Bill allows the central government to replace food entitlements with cash transfers on its own terms, without any safeguards.
- The draft has no safeguards against commercial interference in supply of food in schools and anganwadi centres.
- The draft gives sweeping powers to the central government, including powers to modify most entitlements and prescribe binding guidelines for all relevant schemes.
- The coming into force of the Act is not time-bound.
A more detailed critique of the Bill is attached.
We are also concerned that the Bill relies on a division of the population into three groups (Priority, General and excluded), without any clarity as to how these groups are to be identified. The Socio-Economic and Caste Census (SECC), while possibly an improvement over earlier BPL Censuses, is highly inadequate for this purpose. Among those who have joined us today at Jantar Mantar are many poor people who are at risk of exclusion from the Priority group because of the flawed nature of the SECC’s scoring system.
We reiterate our demand for a comprehensive National Food Security Act, which includes a
- A Universal PDS which includes pulses, cooking oil and millets, with food entitlements based on ICMr norms. , so that all, especially the food insecure, the vulnerable, and the deprived not only get included but also get sufficient nutritious food.
- Appropriate MSPs and decentralised procurement of not just rice and wheat but also millets and pulses.
- No link with any “caps” based on official poverty estimates.
- ‘Universalisation with quality’ of ICDS including the provision of nutritious locally prepared food for all children.
- Universal non-conditional maternity entitlements for 6 months.
- Entitlements for vulnerable groups such as pensions for the aged, single women and persons with disabilities, maternity entitlements and community kitchens
We urge you to ensure that the National Food Security Bill is not tabled, let alone enacted, in its present form.
Contact: Secretariat, Right to Food Campaign, 5 A Jungi House, Shahpur Jat, New Delhi 110049. Tel 011-2649 9563. Email: email@example.com.