The All India Democratic Women's Association (AIDWA) has called upon Parliament to reject the National Food Security Bill introduced in the Lok Sabha on Thursday.
In a statement issued on Friday, the association said the Bill was a “more dangerous and rehashed version” of the current Targeted Public Distribution System, that proved to be an “utter failure” in view of the manner in which it eroded the food security of the majority of the poor, the dalits, the tribals and women, by excluding them from its ambit.
The latest draft proposes to make available subsidised foodgrains to only certain “priority” (formerly BPL) households. Their numbers would be predetermined by the Centre and identified by a “flawed survey” based on “fraudulent criteria” that would exclude a majority of the poor. The remaining “general” (formerly APL) households would be given foodgrains priced at not less than half the Minimum Support Price paid for procuring these grains, and their entitlements would be linked to certain “reforms in the PDS” prescribed by the Centre from time to time, it said.
These reforms include cash transfers that have been euphemistically called “food security allowance,” the use of food coupons and the highly controversial Aadhaar card that does not even have Parliamentary sanction. The Bill also reduces the current household entitlement of 35 kg to a per capita entitlement of 7 kg for “priority” (BPL) and only 3 kg for “general” (APL) households, as against a WHO prescribed norm of at least 11 kg. The Bill proposes to provide wheat at Rs. 2 and rice at Rs. 3 per kg at a time when several State governments have on their own accord increased the number of households entitled to BPL status and was providing them with foodgrains at Rs. 1 or 2 per kg.
The Bill was therefore a cruel joke on the people, especially the women who were suffering from a constant erosion of the PDS and an incessant increase in prices of essential commodities, which had led to widespread hunger and malnutrition, the association said.
The AIDWA demanded that the Bill be rejected in its present form, since it had been designed to further erode the food security system in order to suit the neo-liberal agenda of the agri-business corporates, the statement said.
Nothing less than a universal public distribution system would suffice for addressing this nutritional crisis. “We demand a Food Security Act that guarantees the universal right to food and ensures at least 35 kg of foodgrains per month for every household at Rs.2 per kg,” it said.