Drought predicted in 3 States

CHENNAI DEC. 4. An integrated hunger eradication programme to provide food security to the poor under the guidance of local action committees, consisting of an equal number of women and men was suggested by the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation here today.

Submitting a paper on the concluding day of the three - day conference on "A Consultation on peace, freedom from hunger and sustainable development: Ethical dimensions" here, the Foundation said such an integrated programme should be implemented immediately if the country was to achieve the goal of a hunger-free India before August 2007, the 60th year of the country's independence.

The plan, it said, should have seven major components, including identification of the poor and under-nourished children, special attention to pregnant and nursing mothers, infants, old and infirm persons, provision of clean drinking water, primary health care, and primary education.

Visualising severe drought Rajasthan, Orissa and Maharashtra during February to June next year, the Foundation demanded the introduction of community food, fodder, feed and water banks in these States at the earliest, possibly before the end of January. "No time should be wasted in setting up these banks in areas where a large number of food and water deprived children, women and men were likely to be affected."

Stressing the need for increasing investment in agriculture and rural development, the Foundation said this was necessary as agricultural progress was the best safety net against hunger and rural poverty.

Addressing the concluding session, Prof. Swaminathan said India, despite being rich in diversity and resources, continued to remain as a developing country. Perhaps the existing highly centralised system of administration might be responsible for this. He felt that proliferation of bureaucrats was the major impediment to progress of the country. "Gram Swaraj," he said was the need of the hour to unleash the creativity and initiatives of the rural populace.

Swami Agnivesh demanded a national wage policy, as the minimum wage fixed by various State Governments was not all realistic. The minimum wage of a non-formal worker should be equivalent to the wage of a class four staff in government services and every worker should be given a job at least for 150 days in a year, he added.

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