The Right to Food Campaign on Tuesday expressed its disappointment with the “narrow manner'' in which the proposed food security Bill was being formulated and sought a public debate on the subject. They resolved to intensify their efforts to secure a legal right to food and nutrition for all.
At a meeting with Union Food and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, a delegation of activists said the proposal to provide 25 kg of foodgrains to a limited number of Below Poverty Line households was meaningless in the face of high malnutrition in the country, spiralling prices of essentials, drought and deepening hunger.
Rejecting the idea of cash transfers for foodgrains as opposed to food transfers under any nutrition related scheme, the delegation urged the Minister to follow a consultation process before finalising the proposed Bill.
According to them, Mr. Pawar informed that Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi leadership had sought cash transfers for foodgrains. The Delhi government had proposed to give money in the hands of the identified poor enabling them to buy their grains from the market.
The meeting was in a manner of interaction, the activists — Kavita, Madhuri and Annie — who were accompanied by Rajya Sabha member D. Raja, told The Hindu.
Demanding “visible actions,'' the members called for an immediate ban on food exports till malnutrition was banished from the country. They said the first call on all natural resources including land and water must be for food. Farming of millets must be incentivised rather than just wheat and rice. All speculation and futures trading in food items should be banned.
“Domestic needs should be met by domestic production rather than through imports, and farmers should be protected from dumping of subsidised imported produce. Food should be imported only temporarily through public institutions and only in times of need,'' they told the Minister.
The delegation underscored the demand to cover all citizens under the Public Distribution System. They sought 14 kg of cereals, 1.5 kg pulses and 800 gm of cooking oil at subsidised rates for every adult under the system.
They said that the proposed Bill must provide for mandatory reforms of the PDS shops, direct doorstep delivery of food items and transparency computerisations of records.
Cards must be issued in the name of women and procurement should be done from all districts. Special protection must be extended to vulnerable groups such as elderly, disabled, ailing people, single women or child headed households, destitute people, bonded labourers, primitive tribe groups, de-notified tribes, urban homeless and street children. Grain banks should be set up in every gram panchayat and there should be an effective redressal system, the delegation told the Minister.