RIGHT TO FOOD ˇ CALL FOR ACTION

We, Indian citizens from 12 different states, have assembled in Delhi today to assert the right of all citizens to be free from hunger. Despite the bitter cold and long distances, we assembled at Delhi University to listen to the testimonies of hunger-affected communities from all over the country.

We are dismayed by the extent of hunger in India, where half of all children are undernourished and half of adult women suffer from anaemia. We have been deeply moved by the testimonies of people who spend most of their lives in the shadow of hunger. These testimonies also bring out numerous ways in which both state and central governments have failed to protect the right to food.

We call on these governments to fulfill their responsibility towards the nutritional well being of all citizens. Article 47 of the Constitution clearly directs the state to "regard the raising of the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people and the improvement of the public health among its primary duties". The right to food also follows from the right to life (Article 21). Aside from calling for state intervention, we appeal to all citizens to work for the realisation of the right to food.

Freedom from hunger depends on a wide range of entitlements: secure employment, sustainable livelihoods, nutritional support, clean water, health care, among others. As a matter of immediate priority, we urge the government to take the following steps:

1. Urgent implementation of recent Supreme Court orders relating to the right to food.

2. Social security arrangements to protect all destitute households from hunger as a matter of right.

3. Comprehensive revamping of the public distribution system.

4. Recognition and implementation of the right to work, including an Employment Guarantee Act.

5. Radical expansion of financial allocations for food-related programmes, and of all public facilities relating to the right to food.

Specific demands and proposals, based on todayÝs public hearing, are listed in the attached note. We invite citizenÝs organizations to promote these demands using all democratic means.

Delhi, 10 January 2003



RIGHT TO FOOD: ACTION POINTS

A public hearing on hunger and the right to food was held at Delhi University on 10 January 2003. Based on wide-ranging testimonies of hunger-affected communities from all over India, the following demands and proposals were formulated:
1. Urgent implementation of recent Supreme Court orders relating to the right to food. In particular:

1a. Provision of cooked mid-day meals in all government and government-assisted primary schools.

1b. Provision of a functional anganwadi in every habitation.

1c. Extensive arrangements to ensure that all citizens are aware of their entitlements under food-related programmes and able to secure them (including effective redressal procedures).

2. Social security arrangements to protect all destitute households from hunger as a matter of right. In particular:

2a. Expansion and consolidation of the Antyodaya Anna Yojana programme, to cover 10 per cent of rural households (with priority to widowed, elderly and disabled persons).

2b. Introduction of a similar programme for destitute households in urban areas, especially the homeless and mentally ill.

3. Comprehensive revamping of the public distribution system. In particular:

3a. Vigorous eradication of corruption in the public distribution system.

3b. Abolition of the present targeting method.

3c. Postponement of the forthcoming "BPL survey" to make space for an informed national debate on the BPL approach.

4. Recognition and implementation of the right to work, including an Employment Guarantee Act. In particular:

4a. Open-ended provision of relief employment at the legal minimum wage, without ceiling, in all drought-affected areas until the kharif harvest.

4b. Introduction, within a year, of an "employment guarantee" act.

5. Radical expansion of financial allocations for food-related programmes, and of all public facilities relating to the right to food. In particular:

5a. Enhanced financial allocations for drought relief.

5b. Provision of safe water in all habitations.

5c. Upgrading of basic health facilities, especially in rural areas.

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