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Supreme Court to study plea for food for all

A child carries leftover food from a hotel in Adilabad, Telangana. File photo

A child carries leftover food from a hotel in Adilabad, Telangana. File photo   | Photo Credit: S. Harpal Singh

Petition says State-funded community kitchens is not a novel concept in the country.

The Supreme Court has agreed to examine a plea that starvation deaths continue to eat into the right to life and dignity of social fabric and a “radical” new measure like community kitchens need to be set up across the country to feed the poor and the hungry.

How the surplus food from temples reaches the needy

A Bench led by Justice N.V. Ramana issued notice on Monday to the government on the petition filed jointly by activists Anun Dhawan, Ishann Dhawan and Kunjana Singh, represented by advocates Ashima Mandla and Fuzail Ahmad Ayyubi.

The petition said State-funded community kitchens was not a novel concept in the country. They pointed out how Tamil Nadu's Amma Unavagam had become a roaring success by involving peers in self-help groups, employing the poor to serve hygienic food to eradicate the gnawing problem of hunger on the streets.

The petition also referred to how Rajasthan's Annapurna Rasoi, Indira Canteens in Karnataka, Delhi's Aam Aadmi Canteen, Anna Canteen in Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand Mukhyamantri Dal Bhat and Odisha's Ahaar Centre were combating starvation and malnutrition crisis.

“While there are statistics available for malnutrition deaths in children and adults in the country, there is no official data available for death of persons owing to starvation... Food and Agriculture Report, 2018 stated that India houses 195.9 million of the 821 million undernourished people in the world, accounting for approximately 24% of the world’s hungry. Prevalence of undernourishment in India is 14.8%, higher than both the global and Asian average,” it said.

It urged the court to direct the Chief Secretaries across the country to formulate schemes for the implementation of community kitchens and to further ensure that “no person should sleep on an empty stomach”. It called for the creation of a national food grid by the Centre that would be beyond the scope of the Public Distribution Scheme (PDS).

“Direct the National Legal Services Authority to formulate a scheme to further the provisions of Article 51A of the Constitution of India in order to mitigate deaths resulting from hunger, malnutrition and starvation,” it submitted.

Amma Unavagam

Referring to the Anna Unavagam scheme as a model one, the plea said, “The scheme’s success is also largely due to the quality maintenance in terms of taste, hygiene and wholesome menu sold. This is instructive about how meeting targeted beneficiaries dietary and economic requirements could determine the success of a welfare policy intervention”.

The petition said it has been “reported in 2017 by the National Health Survey (NHS) that approximately 19 crore people in the country were compelled to sleep on an empty stomach every night. Moreover, the most alarming figure revealed is that approximately 4500 children die every day under the age of five years in our country resulting from hunger and malnutrition, amounting to over three lakh deaths every year owing to hunger, of children alone”.

The petition added, “lnspite of the existence of a plethora of schemes aimed at eradicating hunger, malnutrition, starvation deaths, and allied issues, the country is still grappling with the said problems on a large scale, leaving scope for newer radical solutions to combat the same.”

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Printable version | Mar 27, 2020 4:24:24 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/supreme-court-to-study-plea-for-food-for-all/article29322271.ece

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