Subscribe to South Asia Citizens Wire | feeds from sacw.net | @sacw
Home > National Interest vs People’s Interest > India: National Food Security Act Violated - Press release by Right to Food (...)

India: National Food Security Act Violated - Press release by Right to Food Campaign

18 June 2015

print version of this article print version

Right to Food Campaign

(Secretariat)

=============================================================================================

G-46, First Floor, Green Park (Main), New Delhi 110016


Ph: 011- 29849563, Email: righttofood at gmail.com, Website: www.righttofoodcampaign.in

18th June 2015

NATIONAL FOOD SECURITY ACT VIOLATED!!

GOVERNMENT PLANS PHASE-OUT OF ANTODAYA ANNA YOJANA – SCHEME FOR THE MOST VULNERABLE!

The Government of India has once again taken steps that violate the National Food Security Act. In spite of the Act stating that identification of beneficiaries must be completed within one year of commencement of the Act, through executive orders it allowed postponement of implementation three times. Now another provision of the Act is being violated through the new PDS Control Order through which it seeks to kill the Antodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) aimed at providing food security for the poorest of the poor. Section 3 (1) of the NFSA (2013) makes the AAY an entitlement for the poor, the PDS control order overrides it. It states that in the event of migration, death or change in status of an existing AAY household, such cards shall be cancelled and no new cards shall be issued in its place, rather the number of AAY cards in the state reduced. In such a manner, the AAY scheme will be closed in a phased manner.

This also goes against Section 30 of the NFSA which states, “The Central Government and the State Governments shall, while implementing the provisions of this Act and the schemes for meeting specified entitlements, give special focus to the needs of the vulnerable groups especially in remote areas and other areas which are difficult to access, hilly and tribal areas for ensuring their food security.” It is pertinent to ask here that can rules made by the Central Government override and undermine the provisions of a legislation passed by Parliament.

The AAY provides 35kg of foodgrains to most vulnerable households, while the NFSA provides 5kg per individual. Therefore, families, which are vulnerable and have less than seven members (which is the case with most single women headed/old persons households) stand to lose out as they will get lesser quantity of grain. It is ironical that the government has targeted to end the AAY which was introduced in 2000 by the Vajpayee government to address the problem of hunger amongst the most vulnerable.

This clause in the new PDS control order also violates the Supreme Court’s directives related to the AAY in the PUCL case 196/2001, being heard by the Supreme Court since 2001 In its order dated 02.05.2003, the Supreme Court states, “We direct the Government of India to place on AAY category the following groups of persons:- (1) Aged, infirm, disabled, destitute men and women, pregnant and locating women, destitute women; (2) widows and other single women with no regular support; (3) old persons (aged 60 or above) with no regular support and no assured means of subsistence; (4) households with a disabled adult and assured means of subsistence; (5) households where due to old age, lack of physical or mental fitness, social customs, need to care for a disabled, or other reasons, no adult member is available to engage in gainful employment outside the house; and (6) primitive tribes.” (CWP 196/2001). In subsequent orders the Supreme Court recognises the AAY as a scheme for the poorest of the poor and presses for its proper implementation (20.4.2004 and 17.11.2004)

It has been the experience of activists also borne out by research that the beneficiaries of the AAY are indeed the poorest and most vulnerable in the community. Often the ration provided by the AAY and the social security pensions are their only sources of food security and income. It is therefore important that such a provision for the most vulnerable is not phased out. In fact, what is required is an expansion of the PDS entitlements for all the priority households by enhancing quantity of foodgrains provided as well as including other items such as pulses and edible oils.

The PDS Control Order also states that there shall be no increase in the number of persons covered till data from next population Census is available. This essentially means that coverage is frozen in terms of numbers for ten years. In fact the coverage in terms of percentage of population covered would fall continuously from the current levels of 75% for rural areas and 50% for urban areas. Children born from now on would therefore be denied inclusion under NFSA till they are about 10 years old. With new births and expansion in families, households will get less and less grain per person even if the entitlements are now designed to be individual based.

The Control Order also restricts issuing of ration cards only to citizens or recognised refugees while Article 21 (Right to Life) of the Constitution extends to all residents. This will also make it difficult for one to get a ration card because a lot of migrants will then have to prove their citizenship.

While revisions to the PDS Control Order were required to bring it in tandem with the NFSA, the Government has used this as an opportunity to once again dilute hard won entitlements for the poor. In this instance, target is one of the best schemes introduced by their own government previously, the AAY. With recent damage to crops and crisis in agriculture, the significance of the PDS especially for the vulnerable groups is even higher.

This comes in a series of steps taken by this Government towards weakening the provisions of the NFSA – repeated postponements in the deadline for the implementation of the NFSA; acceptance in stealth of the recommendations of the Shanta Kumar committee to replace distribution of foodgrains with cash through pressure on state governments to initiate pilots for DBT (Direct Benefit Transfers) in PDS, putting a limit on the MSP (Minimum Support Price) and procurement; massive cuts in budgets for mid-day meals and ICDS (cut by 50%); non-implementation of universal maternity entitlements and so on.

The Right to Food Campaign calls for massive mobilisation against such anti-people moves by this Government. We demand strengthening of PDS and other food security programmes, full implementation of the NFSA and greater transparency in decision-making in such policies.

We Are,

Kavita Srivastava and Dipa Sinha, Convenors, Steering Committee of Right to Food Campaign

National Networks: Annie Raja, (National Federation for Indian Women), Colin Gonsalves , (Human Right Law Network), Aruna Roy, Nikhil Dey and Anjali Bhardwaj, (National Campaign for People’s Right to Information), Madhuresh, Arundhati Dhuru and Ulka Mahajan (National Alliance of People’s Movements), Asha Mishra and Kashinath Chatterjee (Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti), Ashok Bharti (National Conference of Dalit Organizations), Anuradha Talwar, Gautam Modi and Madhuri Krishnaswamy (New Trade Union Initiative), Binayak Sen (People’s Union for Civil Liberties), Subhash Bhatnagar (National Campaign Committee for Unorganized Sector workers), Paul Divakar and Asha Kowtal (National Campaign for Dalit Human Rights), Mira Shiva, Radha Holla and Vandana Prasad (Jan Swasthya Abhiyan), Ranjeet Kumar Verma, Prahlad Ray, Praveen Kumar, Anand Malakar (Rashtriya Viklang Manch), Lali Dhakar, Sarawasti Singh, Shilpa Dey and Radha Raghwal (National Forum for Single Women’s Rights), G V Ramanjaneyulu, Kavita Kuruganthi (Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture), Jashodhara (National Alliance for Maternal Health and Human Rights), Ilango (National Fishworkers Federation), Zasia, Sonam, and Noor Jehan (Bhartiya Muslim Mahila Andolan), Mayank Sinha, National Network on Nomadic and Denotified Nomadic Tribes,

State Representatives: M Kodandram, Rama Melkape, Veena Shatrughana (Andhra Pradesh), Gangabhai and Samir Garg (Chhattisgarh), Abhay Kumar (Karnataka), Suresh Sawant, Mukta Srivastava (Maharashtra), Balram and James Herenj, Gurjeet Singh, Dheeraj (Jharkhand), Ashok Khandelwal, Shyam and Vijay Lakshmi (Rajasthan), Sachin Jain (Madhya Pradesh), Joseph Patelia, Sejal Dand, Neeta Hardikar and (Gujarat), Saito Basumaatary, Raju Narzari, Bondita Acharya and Sunil Kaul (Assam), Rupesh, (Bihar), V Suresh (Tamil Nadu), Bidyut Mohanty Raj Kishore Mishra, (Orissa), Ranjeet Kumar Varma, Bindu Singh, Sabina and Richa (Uttar Pradesh), Pushpa, Dharmendra, Ramendra, Yogesh, Vimla and Sarita (Delhi), Fr Jothi SJ and Mr. Saradindu (West Bengal)

Individual Representatives: Biraj Patnaik, Harsh Mander, Manas Ranjan, Vidya Bhushan Rawat, Ankita Aggarwal, Swati Narayan and Ritu Priya