Nourishing, healthy and nutritional food is essential for a life to stay alive. And India — a country with nearly 50% of its population malnourished — slipped to the 65th position among 79 countries in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) ranking prepared by the Food Policy and Research Institute during the previous year. This clearly indicates the poor performance of the Indian Government in reducing hunger or malnutrition, especially among children and women.
In this woeful condition, the United Progressive Alliance-2, popularly known as the UPA-2, is going to author another good piece of literature in the Indian Constitution as ‘Right to Food’ to entitle food as a human right along with other entitlements of education, work, identity and information. On this note, the Union Cabinet, under the leadership of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, on 19 March 2013 approved the National Food Security Bill which is yet to come in the Lok Sabha.
The Food Security Bill — as it states — aims at sanctioning the right to food to around 67 per cent of India’s 120-crore population. It envisages the distribution of food grains for example wheat, rice and coarse grains at an extremely low cost of Rs 2, Rs 3 and Rs 1 a kilogram each to about 65 per cent of the population – 75 per cent of them in rural areas and the rest in cities and towns. Some entitlements to ‘special groups’ like impoverished or homeless people, who will be entitled to at least one meal a day, have also been considered.
Being completely worn out by numerous accusations from opposition political parties, the UPA2’s Union Cabinet passed this bill over the objection of Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar to cleverly use it as an instrument in campaigning for the 2014 elections. Although this flagship scheme will hardly serve any purpose, as we can vividly see in all the entitled right based acts which have not yet been successfully and spontaneously implemented. In fact, the Food Security Bill is aimed at fulfilling one of UPA’s fancy election promises of providing subsidized food grain to nearly two-thirds of the rural and half of the urban households. Moreover, this unreasonable populism aspires mainly to provide electoral security to UPA2. But we better not get confused with their stride towards electoral security with the food security.
But merely announcing a legal right will not guarantee that the structural causes of poverty, hunger, starvation and malnutrition will automatically be addressed; rather this act should operate like a pivot or fundamental argument of all the acts and bills like right to education, work, information, health etc. It is supposed to be linked with the entire spectrum of issues of FDI, seed policy, land reforms, giving community rights over natural resources and policies related to agriculture to ensure food security much beyond just an entitlement. As far as the number of deaths that have occurred due to malnutrition or starvation in our country, no government can bask in the claim that India is a shining economy and a rising superpower.