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25000 Dying Of Hunger Everyday, Where Is The Right To Food?

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By Shreesha B.U:

The famous Indian Tamil poet Subramanya Bharati once said, “Thani oru manidhanukku unnavvillai yendral jagathinai yerippom”, which roughly translates into “If there is one individual who is without food we ought to scorch the world”. Nearly 100 years after his famous utterance we might have to torch the entire galaxy if we were to implement what the great poet said. The World Food Program says 25,000 people die of hunger everyday, one in seven go to bed hungry every night, hunger kills more people than all the major diseases combined. Though “Right to Food” act is enshrined in every country’s constitution and is protected under law in every country, implementation of the same in developing countries, like ours, is close to being pathetic. Right to Food is the state’s obligation.

No state can shirk from the responsibility of providing every man, woman and child – material and fiscal access to food or means to secure the same. It’s the state’s responsibility to provide healthy nutritious food to the aged, disabled and people who die of starvation or people who have no means to provide food for themselves or for the members of their family. Entrusting the state with the entire responsibility to eradicate “hunger” would be absolving ourselves from the guilt of greed. As Mahatma Gandhi once said “Earth provides for every man’s need not every man’s greed”. It’s shameful that to some food is fame, to some a game and to a majority, just a name. Hunger cuts across all barriers of country, religion or creed. Denial of food to any is a crime against humanity and equality.

Popular economists, politicians and corporate honchos lead us to a make believe world, showing signs of prosperity all around us, they tutor us on the increase in the buying power of the common man. Delve deep and you can see poverty, hunger and malnourishment. We in India, can lay claim to the fact that 47% of the children are malnourished. Record food production, full house granaries have done nothing to salvage hunger amongst millions in our country. Administrators and economists have to be blamed for their poor ability to evolve new policies and proper implementation of effective Public Distribution System and various food security programs, that are targeted at the poor and the hungry. Its sad that the law cannot hold any official or government executive responsible for the death of any person out of hunger. The Right to Food should be legally binding on the government and ensure that the state cannot disown its responsibility towards providing every man woman and child proper nourished food.

There have been long drawn debates amongst politicians, economists, and social thinkers on the “Right to Food” act. There has been various food security programmes aimed at providing a healthy quantity of food to the poor and hungry, and also supply subsidized food through the more able Public Distribution System. Yet what successive governments have ignored is the promise to “Provide” and create new welfare methods and devise strategies towards eradicating hunger and poverty in a particular period. The Right to food is the right to live and no government can shy away from the liability of providing every person in this country an atmosphere and environment conducive for him/her to earn his food and eat it. It’s the obligation of the state towards its subjects to guarantee the most basic and essential needs like food, education, healthcare and security. So this makes it vital for the government to implement in all seriousness the other fundamental “Rights” of the citizens i.e the Right to education and the Right to proper health. What’s most vital for the state is identifying the numbers that belong to abject poverty and malnutrition. The indecision of the state not to implement programs like “Work for food” so that the poor and needy can eat with dignity should be condemned. Every subject in every country needs to be educated on his/her “Right to standard food, clothing and shelter” and the fundamental right to be free from hunger. The state should make certain that every child enjoys uninhibited health care, nourishment and education. The biggest “cause” for hunger has been “access” to food. Access is not about physical proximity or contact with food, it’s about creating avenues for individuals and families to work and earn their right to eat. Access is creating a bustling economy that involves all segments and classes of the society, with every individual having a job, thereby getting physical and economic contact with adequate food at all times. The active economic atmosphere should be for a sustained period. The food should be nutritious and safe to consume. The state should “value” an individual’s access to food. They should also ensure that food isn’t protected from access. It’s again, the state’s conscientiousness to “realize” that they have an obligation towards a citizen of the country who is bereft of his/her basic needs.

There is no denying the fact that there does exist a small percentage of the population who have more than they need and that, they are oblivious to the majority who starve. The fact also is that the state spends more of its energies and brilliance in ensuring that this small percentage is kept in good spirits, for its they, who the state believe is the face of our country. It’s they who are on our morning newspapers or on our news channels. They tell us how our country is growing, how rich everyone is because they just got wealthier. The majority is expected to see growth and prosperity through the eyes of the minority and fend for themselves. It’s a glaring disparity to see the minority splurge on “material” things and the majority bend backwards to get access to potable drinking water. The Right to food need not be fought on economic or social grounds; it has to be fought on “moral” and “ethical” grounds, for it’s a crime to indulge when a few more could have survived. The argument can be “for” as well as “against” redistribution of wealth. Should we look out for a new economic policy instead of the present one which has only managed to widen the gulf between the ones who “have” and those who “haven’t”. The need to look deeply and comprehend how much is “enough”? Should we not bare our soul and see if it has the moistness of sympathy and mercy? Shouldn’t the policy makers and the benefiters spare a thought for the “majority”? Poverty is accepted to be normal. While it’s true that we have to remove the economic, political and social obstacles to progress, its also true that growth that isn’t inclusive, never lasts. Far from truth is the fact that ineptness and idleness is the reason for being poor and hungry, because we all never start from the starting line. Some are fortunate to have better access to basic amenities at an early stage and that just gives them the jump ahead of the majority. We don’t live in a world of equal opportunities, so it’s vicious to insist on the “Right to wealth”, when others starve.

The outlook isn’t pink if this discrepancy in parity continues. The tolerance to opulence and wealth will snap. The poor and hungry might not take this for long. The need will drive towards a more equal or positive social responsibility. The biggest obstacle in the Right to food is our “apathy” towards it. It’s time for us to introspect our moral and shared responsibility. Our decisiveness in deciding to fight as well as help our government to implement the “Right to food” act more seriously. Towards promising ourselves to deliver our future generations a world free from hunger… We will proceed now…

You must be to comment.
  1. Charmaine Chetty

    A “Truth” finally touched upon….hopefully people of power can implement strategies and means to overcome this major crisis – “Hunger and poverty” …!!

  2. Krishan Kumar

    Good Work!!

  3. Milind Alokjee

    The author puts it beautifully – “The Right to food need not be fought on economic or social grounds; it has to be fought on “moral” and “ethical” grounds, for it’s a crime to indulge when a few more could have survived”.
    The ‘Haves’ of this country need to work for the ‘Have Nots’. A country is identified not by the condition of its richest but the poorest. The poor need to be made self reliant; equipping them with education, healthcare and skill so that they provide for themselves.

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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