A large number of food rights activists staged a protest outside the godown of the Food Corporation of India in Rourkela on Sunday demanding equitable distribution of food grains and universalisation and decentralisation of the public distribution system (PDS). More than 1,500 activists, academicians and those involved in various people's movements participated in the agitation against the rotting of food grains in godowns at the end of the fourth, three-day, national convention on “Right to food and work” in the steel township of Orissa.

The slogan “khali pet, bhara gudam, nahin chalega, nahin chalega” (empty stomach, overflowing godowns will not work) rent the air as the activists marched towards the FCI godown demanding food for all.

Let not the grains rot in the godowns while millions cried for food, the activists said.

Farmland should not be diverted for non-agricultural use, and food crop-cultivating land should not be diverted for non-food crops, they demanded.

Stating that food security could not be possible in a vacuum, the activists, who came from different parts of the country, demanded that production, procurement and storage of food grains be linked to distribution.

Access and control over all natural resources should be in the hands of people whose livelihood depended on them, especially in the hands of the most vulnerable groups — women.

Food Security Act

On the National Food Security Act, the activists said it must have provisions of affirmative action for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes as well as socially vulnerable groups and the urban poor.

Supreme Court order

Veteran journalist P. Sainath had set the tone of the convention by delivering the keynote address on the first day (Friday). Referring to the Supreme Court's July 27 order that not a single grain should be wasted and it should be distributed to the hungry, Mr. Sainath said as the government would never distribute the grains, efforts should be made by the people to take the grains away from the godowns and distribute them to the people to implement the court order so that nobody would ever sleep hungry.

The activists said similar protests would be organised across the country. Prominent food rights activists who addressed the convention included Binayak Sen, Jean Dreze, Anuradha Talwar, Kavita Srivastava, Lingaraj and Prafulla Samantara.

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