Even as a controversy is raging over the government decision to allow FDI in retail, activity is seen on the food security front, with several parties proposing to join a “Jan Manch” (public discussion) about the proposed National Food Security Bill organised here on Tuesday.

“Almost all political parties have confirmed their participation” in the event being organised by the Right to Food Campaign, human rights activist Kavita Srivastava told a press conference here on Monday. “We are questioning them to state their stand on the proposed Bill, which is flawed on many counts and is, at best, a targeted food security.”

The activists who addressed the press conference pointed out the many flaws in the ongoing Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) survey on which they were in dialogue with the Ministry of Rural Development. According to the activists, the survey would end up keeping more people out of the public distribution system than it would include.

Nutrition security

The activists, who are seeking universal PDS and the linking of food security with nutrition security, said they were sceptical of the manner the government was proceeding.

“The Bill in its present form cannot be introduced in Parliament. It is better to delay the Act than come up with a Bill that is a blunder and does more harm than good,” said Mr. Drez.

Wondering how a Bill that had no clarity on who its beneficiaries would be could be brought to Parliament, he said it was like putting a cart before the horse. “The Bill undermines the efforts of several States that are moving towards universalisation. This proposed Bill re-imposes targeting with a multi-layered system that has no clarity and can end up being more destructive.”

Biometric identification

According to Ms. Ritika, linking PDS with the ‘Aadhar' was unnecessary and the biometric identification of beneficiaries had no role in the entire chain. “It will only end up in the harassment of beneficiaries whose signatures or thumb impressions may not match. ‘Aadhar' cannot plug leakage or pilferages.”

Ms. Deepa sounded an alarm bell for the inclusion, in the draft Bill that was posted on the Food Ministry's website, of micronutrient fortified foods or ready-to-eat commercial meals, opening the doors for private and multi-national companies to enter the food chain for commercial benefits. “This will not really address the requirement of child nutrition, especially when India tops the nations with most malnourished children.”

The activists said that the entire exercise of identifying beneficiaries seemed geared towards finding people to fit the category that the proposed Bill provides for.

Parameters of poverty

They presented at the press conference farmer families and widows from the Fagi village near Jaipur, who bemoaned that under the new parameters of poverty, only three out of the current 122 Below Poverty Line householdswould qualify under the proposed food security bill.

The Bill proposes to cover 75 per cent population in rural areas and 50 per cent in urban areas with subsidised foodgrains.

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