Right to Food

Right to Food

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The distribution of iron fortified rice is part of the Government of India's push to combat anaemia and it will become a near mandatory programme for the poor, for whom this rice will be inescapable i.e., PDS, ICDS, school meals, etc. 

The fact-finding visit was organised by Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA-Kisan Swaraj) and the Right To Food Campaign (RTFC) between June 13th to 15th 2022, and included a seven member team (two of whom are medical doctors). 

The visit was conducted in four districts of the state (Kondagaon, Bastar, Surguja and Korba), and entailed interactions with scores of entitlement-holders/”beneficiaries”, frontline workers of various line departments, PDS dealers, medical experts, and senior government/executive functionaries at state and district levels.

The report by the fact-finding team highlights the major irregularities in the implementation of this programme, such as non-compliance to food safety regulations, iron related side effects, no screenings of patients of haemoglobinopathies for whom iron is contra-indicated, among other points. All this raises questions about fortification as a safe and effective strategy to address malnutrition in India. 

Kindly click here and here to access the Press release by Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA-Kisan Swaraj) and the Right To Food Campaign (RTFC) dated June 20, 2022. 

Please click here to access the Executive Summary of the Report by the Chhattisgarh Fact Finding Team dated June 19, 2022. 

Please click here to access the Report prepared by the Chhattisgarh Fact Finding Team on Rice Fortification dated June 19, 2022

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Please click here to access the Report of the Fact Finding Visit to Jharkhand, on Rice Fortification in Government Food Schemes (released in May, 2022). The visit took place during 8-11 May, 2022. The report has been prepared by Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA-Kisan Swaraj) and the Right To Food Campaign.

The team members were: 

1. Dr Vandana Prasad, Community Pediatrician and Public Health Expert, Former Member (Child Health) National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), Member National Secretariat Advisory Group, Right to Food Campaign;
2. Kavitha Kuruganti, Co-Convenor, ASHA-Kisan Swaraj and Former Member, High Level Committee on the Status of Women in India, MoWCD, Government of India;
3. Balram, Right to Food Campaign Jharkhand;
4. Rohin Kumar, Project Lead, Food For Future, Greenpeace India;
5. James Herenz, Right to Food Campaign, Jharkhand;
6. Raj Shekhar Singh, Right to Food Campaign National Secretariat;
7. Soumik Banerjee, ASHA-Kisan Swaraj and Independent Researcher.  

This fact-finding team is of the firm view that in a large scale approach to rice fortification like is being adopted by Governments right now, even a screening process prior to fortified rice distribution does not resolve the problem of at-risk individuals, because within a household, it is unlikely that two different rices (fortified and unfortified) will be cooked for every meal for the contra-indicated cases and healthy persons. It is also unlikely that the government would be able to put into place any mechanisms by which entitlements of each person in a household can be distributed distinctly in the PDS system as fortified and non-fortified rice, to cater to individual needs and medical conditions. While that is about (lack of) capabilities of the State to deliver in a tailor-made fashion to patients separately from healthy persons in a community, it is also very apparent that most households are deeply dependent on the entitlements that they access from the PDS system. It is clear that avoidance of risk to the vulnerable contra-indicated persons requires the stopping of the supply of fortified rice itself in Jharkhand.

In the name of rice fortification, the government is causing a major disruption to people’s major source of nutrition – rice – unnecessarily, and without any due consideration of their right to choose what food they would like to consume.

Considering that many other alternatives exist, like better micro-nutrient supplementation programmes and holistic approaches that promote adequate and diverse diets, this nearmandatory rice fortification is extremely high-handed and violative of people’s right to food, especially when it comes to the poor. 

The fact finding team believes that Jharkhand Government needs to reject rice fortification in government food schemes as an approach to tackling malnutrition, and should communicate the same to the Government of India immediately. The Central and State Governments should instead invest on holistic, sustainable, natural and community-controlled solutions, as described in the earlier section of this report
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Nearly 170 individuals and organisations along with the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA Kisan Swaraj) have written to the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) urging it to scrap its plans to make synthetic/ chemical fortification of foods mandatory in India. They cited detrimental and irreversible health and socio-economic impacts such as market shifts in favor of large corporations, loss of livelihoods for small and informal players, monocultures in diets and reliance on packaged foods, lack of independent and conclusive evidence, and conflict-of-interest concerns. Please click here and here to access the Press release by Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA Kisan Swaraj) dated 2 August, 2021

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In its press release dated 29th June, 2021, the Right to Food Campaign has appreciated the Supreme Court of India's direction to give rations to the inter-state migrant workers, including those who don't have ration cards, and revise state-wise coverage of food security net under the National Food Security Act (NFSA). The Supreme Court took cognizance of the fact that the state wise coverage of the public distribution system (PDS) under the NFSA was determined on the basis of the 2011 census and has not been revised since then, leading to exclusion of many persons in need. The Right to Food Campaign Secretariat has urged the Central and State Governments to effectively implement these orders throughout the country. 

Please click here to access the Press release by the Right to Food Campaign dated 29th June, 2021. Kindly click here to access the SC judgement to Writ Petition (C) No.916 of 2020 dated 29th June, 2021.

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The Supreme Court of India on 24th May 2021 has directed that dry ration has to be distributed to migrant workers throughout the country by the States under the Atmanirbhar Scheme or any other scheme found suitable by the States/ Centre. Further, the SC has directed all the States/ Union Territories to make operational community kitchens to provide food to migrant workers all over the country and ensure wide publicity of the locations of community kitchens. The plea to universalise food from community kitchens and provision of dry ration to all migrant workers across India has been accepted.

The intervenors Harsh Mander, Anjali Bhardwaj and Jagdeep Chhokar in suo motu writ petition (civil) 6/2020 IA no. 58769/2021 were represented by Prashant Bhushan and Cheryl D’souza. The intervention applications, orders of the Supreme Court and the affidavits filed by UOI and the states can be accessed here -- https://bit.ly/2Sju3HO.

Please click here and here to access the Supreme Court of India's order dated 24th May 2021, which is related to the suo motu writ petition (civil) 6/2020 IA no. 58769/2021.

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Against the backdrop of rise in Covid-19 daily new deaths across the country and local level lockdowns being imposed by various State Governments, India is once again witnessing severe economic distress amongst its working class. The livelihood and food security crisis that is being faced by the poor, daily wage workers and the informal sector workers of the country has been completely invisibilised with hardly any special packages being announced by the Central Government.

News reports indicate that 13.09 million tonnes of non-basmati rice, 4.63 million tonnes of basmati rice and 2.09 million tonnes of wheat were exported in 2020-21, a year when millions of Indians faced a situation of hunger and food insecurity. The Right to Food Campaign in its press statement has condemned the export of foodgrain and has demanded Universalisation of the Public Distribution System.  

Please click here to access the Press Release by Right to Food Campaign Secretariat dated 23rd May 2021.

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In a press statement dated 10th May, 2021, the Right to Food Campaign, a civil society group working for elimination of hunger and undernutrition in the country, has expressed its shock and dismay over a recent interview given to Business Standard by Mr. Bishow Parajuli, India Country Director for United Nations World Food Programme, in which he said that “universalising the PDS ... might not be feasible as everyone in India does not need social protection.” However, the campaign is pleased to note that Mr. Parajuli acknowledges the importance of a diverse diet that includes fresh vegetables, fruits, and eggs. Please click here to access the Press release by the Right to Food Campaign, dated 10th May, 2021.

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Please click here and here to access the Results of the second round of survey conducted by Right to Food Campaign, Jharkhand chapter during second and third week of May 2020, dated 26th May, 2020.

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Kindly click here and here to access the Results of the first round of survey conducted by Right to Food Campaign, Jharkhand chapter during first week of April 2020, dated 10th April, 2020.

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Please click here to access the Response of civil society activists to the Finance Minister’s announcement of Rs 1.7 lakh crore package in the wake of COVID-19, dated 26th March, 2020.

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Please click here to access the Open Letter from the Right to Food Campaign to the Prime Minister of India in the wake of COVID-19, dated 19th March, 2020.

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As per the CAG report on the status of NFSA's implementation (tabled in Parliament on 29 April, 2016), officially entitled 'CAG Audit Report no. 54 of 2015 on the Preparedness for implementation of NFSA (2013)' (please click here to access):

Identification of beneficiaries and issuance of ration cards

• Although the NFSA (2013) that came into effect from July 5, 2013 aimed to provide foodgrains to 81.34 crore beneficiaries at highly subsidized rates, only 11 states/ Union Territories (UTs) reported identification of eligible households within the stipulated timeline of 365 days whereas seven states/ UTs reported identification of eligible households under NFSA during June-October 2015, thereby taking the figure of implementing states/ UTs to 18. 

• Out of the above 18 states, eight states/ UTs fully completed the identification as per coverage under NFSA. However, it was noted that in case of 10 states/ UTs NFSA was implemented even though these states did not complete identification of required number of beneficiaries under NFSA. In these 10 states/ UTs, as against the total 262.13 million beneficiaries, only 207.79 million were identified. This resulted in benefit of subsidized foodgrains under NFSA not reaching 54.34 million remaining unidentified of the targeted beneficiaries.

• Identification of beneficiaries was one key milestone to be achieved within a year, but most of the early implementers (Himachal Pradesh, Delhi and Maharashtra) recycled the old system and re-branded it as NFSA compliant. There were repeated extensions of timelines by the Central Government for identification of beneficiaries for which there was no provision in NFSA.

• The CAG audit has noted that under Section 10(1) (b) of NFSA, the state government shall continue to receive the allocation of foodgrains from the Central Government under the existing Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS), till the identification of such households is complete. Hence, the NFSA clearly stipulates that identification is necessary for receiving foodgrains under NFSA.

• In Himachal Pradesh, 6.9 lakh old ration cards were stamped as priority household and Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) households and re-issued as NFSA compliant. In Karnataka, 8.90 lakh bogus and ineligible ration cards were found (June 2015) in the existing system during seeding of Elector’s Photo Identity Card details. However, instead of cancelling these bogus or ineligible ration cards, state government continued to issue foodgrains to them. In Maharashtra, the ration cards were revalidated by merely affixing stamps on the existing ration cards under different categories.

• Upto 75 percent of the rural and 50 percent of urban population as per Census 2011 at the national level were to be covered under NFSA and the states/ UTs were supposed to be allocated foodgrains as specified for the above coverage. However, only 51 percent of the eligible beneficiaries had been identified and 49 percent beneficiaries were yet to be identified in all the states/ UTs.

• The reasons for delay in implementation of NFSA by non-implementing states/ UTs were non-finalization of figures under Socio Economic Caste Census (SECC), lack of infrastructural facilities, insufficient funds and manpower. The work of survey of rural and urban areas under SECC 2011 was not completed till July 2013.

• The CAG audit noted that prior to enactment of the NFSA in 2011 many states had raised the issue of identification of beneficiaries as one of the major constraints. The Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution had clarified that data collected under SECC will have information of a number of socio-economic indicators. The same Ministry also indicated that the Ministry of Rural Development and the Planning Commission in consultation with states, experts and civil societies will arrive at a consensus on the methodology, consistent with provisions of the Food Security Bill, to ensure that no poor household is excluded from the coverage under Government programmes. However, the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution finally decided to allow the states/ UTs to formulate their own guidelines/ criteria for identification of priority households. This contributed to delay in implementation as many states were still waiting for the completion of SECC.

• Most of the implementing states did not identify the AAY and priority household’s beneficiaries as per the provisions of the NFSA but used the old database of beneficiaries for extending the benefits.

• The maternity benefit, though made mandatory through NFSA, were yet to be extended to pregnant woman and lactating mothers in the country and was available to a few chosen districts.

• As per Section 5 (1) of NFSA, in case of children in the age group of six months to six years, appropriate meal, free of charge, was to be provided through the local Anganwadi Centre (AWC) so as to meet the nutritional standards specified in NFSA. The Ministry of Women and Child Development, in consultation with the state governments, made the Supplementary Nutrition (under the Integrated Child Development Services scheme) Rules 2015. However, no provision was made in the Rules for the payment of food security allowance to the beneficiaries of the AWCs, which were required under Section 8 of the NFSA.

Reforms in Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS)

• Doorstep delivery of foodgrains was not implemented in Assam, whereas in Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra it was implemented partially. In Himachal Pradesh and Karnataka, doorstep delivery was being done by Fair Price Shop (FPS) dealers themselves against the provision of NFSA.

• Computerization of TPDS operations was not completed in the selected states/ UTs and was at different stages of implementation.

• Unavailability of required computer application and hardware were the limiting factors in the selected states/ UTs. Inadequate digitization of the identified beneficiaries’ data was observed in the states/ UTs.

• The National Foodgrains Movement Plan was not prepared despite being decided in 2012.

• In the test checked states the storage capacity of foodgrains was not adequate for holding 3 months requirement and the condition of existing storage capacity with the states/ UTs needed upgradation.

Grievance Redressal Mechanism and Monitoring

• Though, six out of nine selected states/ UTs were found to have put in place the grievance redressal mechanism, these were not fully functional. Vigilance committees at all the four levels were not in existence in any of the selected states/ UTs. The Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution did not have the information on grievance redressal mechanism and vigilance committee, and was not in position to monitor the implementation. Similarly, monitoring done by the states was inadequate and there were shortfalls in inspections.



Rural Expert
 

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