The Right to Food Campaign said on Thursday that it was “extremely disappointed” with the recommendations of the National Advisory Council (NAC) on the proposed Food Security Bill and that it would continue its struggle for a Comprehensive Food Security Act.
Urging the NAC to “reconsider” its decisions, the Campaign said that the main objective of the proposals seems to be to minimise the budgetary and foodgrains burden of the [proposed] Bill rather than ensure food security for all citizens. “We reject the minimalist framework that has failed to address the situation of hunger and malnutrition in the country.”
The NAC, in its meeting last month, had proposed a legal entitlement to subsidised foodgrains for at least 75 per cent of the population, translating into 90 per cent of the rural and 50 per cent of the urban populations in two categories of households, namely ‘priority' and ‘general'.
“The recommendations only deal with a cereal-based targeted Public Distribution System, which is a far cry from the comprehensive approach required to truly ensure food security for all. Arguments suggesting lack of resources cannot be accepted, when on the other hand, the same government provides tax exemptions and rebates of over Rs. 5 lakh crores (in 2009-2010) majorly to the corporate sector,” the Campaign members have said in a letter written to NAC chairperson Sonia Gandhi and the members.
“By not announcing universal entitlements as ordered by the Supreme Court for various schemes the NAC has shown little commitment for those who suffer most from chronic hunger such as children, pregnant women, old persons, disabled, homeless and others,” they said.
It has completely moved away from the idea of universalisation. The current proposals only offer some window-dressing to the present TPDS. On the constraints on the availability of foodgrains, the Campaign maintained that the quantum of foodgrains required for universal PDS could be made possible with a comprehensive Food Security Bill that took into consideration issues related to production, procurement and distribution together.
It demanded a comprehensive Food Security Act that has an overarching obligation to protect everyone from hunger and malnutrition, and is universal and accountable.