30 September 2012

The Country Demands Food Security For All APL BPL Khatam Karo Taala Kholo, KhaanaDo Stop Theft In The PDS

43% children suffering from malnutrition. 40% women anaemic.
Reports of hunger and starvation deaths from all corners of the country

India is one of the three countries where the hunger index between 1996 and 2011 has gone up from 22.9 to 23.7. On the other hand 78 out of the 81 developing countries studied, including Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Kenya, Nigeria, Myanmar, Uganda, Zimbabwe and Malawi, have all succeeded in improving their scores.

This was also the time when the Indian growth story in the middle of a world recession made us heroes in the world. It was also the period when we have managed to increase our buffer stocks of food to 8.5 crores metric tonnes. We continue to export food grains to feed the cattle of the developed countries while our own people go hungry.

It is in such a context that we must look at the UPA II’s plan to pass the National Food Security Bill in November- December during the forthcoming winter session of Parliament. The Bill is to say the least a damp squib. It talks about food security without in any way dealing with the causes of food insecurity- increasing joblessness, low wages, landlessness, the increasing displacement of people and encroaching upon their jal, jangal and jameen. It also does not mention the present agrarian crisis or the farmer suicides nor outlines any steps by which farmers will be supported and food production will be ensured within the country.

In terms of entitlements also, it takes the much ridiculed and flawed system of targeting one step further, by dividing the population into three categories –i) the excluded, who will get no food grains; ii)  the priority groups who will get 7 kgs of food grains per head per month at Rs. 3 for rice, Rs.2 for wheat and Rs.1 for coarse grains; and iii) the general group who will get 5 kgs of food grains per head per month at half the Minimum Support Price (the price at which grain is procured from farmers).

Indian Council of Medical Research, the prestigious research organisation on medical matters places the cereal requirements at 14 kgs per month for an adult. However, ignoring this, there are now reports that the Government is planning a system to cover 67% of our population, reducing allotments from the present 7 kgs per head per month to 5 kgs per head per month. Thus, in the face of increasing hunger, the Government has come up with a brilliant plan- reduce food entitlements further! To make things worse, there is no sign that the Government is even considering to provide pulses and cooking oil, essentials for good nutrition, at subsidised prices.

In fact, by sleight of hand, the Government while pretending to pass a Food Security Act is actually reducing its expenditure on food in the PDS through the new Bill. Where it used to spend Rs.89,272 crores on PDS alone, its latest plan is to spend Rs.116510 crores on all schemes- PDS, MDMS and ICDS. This is likely to involve a reduction in expenditure on the PDS. Food grains allocation are planned to be raised from 56.4 million metric tonnes for the PDS to 61.5 million metric tonnes, of which about 8 million tonnes is for the ICDS and MDMS, leaving a reduced amount of 53.5 million tonnes for the PDS.
We thus have a law being passed to reduce the amount many of us receive from 7 kgs per card to 5 kgs per card and to reduce the total amount spent on food. To make matters worse the new Bill has a very weak redressal system, which means that theft and corruption will have little remedy. It is also trying to push a regime of cash instead of food through the back door through some of its provisions.   

We say- stop fooling us!

We demand:
  • Open the doors of the godowns and distribute the 8.5 crores of food grains that you have locked up to the hungry of this country immediately.
  • Provide food grains to everyone in the 200 poorest districts immediately as a first step and then move towards universal coverage under the PDS.
  • Stop theft in the PDS system immediately. Let us get rid of all the bogus cards- each ration dealer has at least 500-800 such cards. Let us break the nexus between the ration dealers, the whole sale retailers, mill owners, the Food Department and the politicians. We want a clean, transparent, well run rationing system
  • Pass a genuine Food Security Bill with strong redressal mechanisms.
  • Remove this false difference between APL and BPL. Ensure that everyone in this country gets the medically necessary 14 kgs of food grains per head per month. Give us pulses and cooking oil at subsidised rates through the PDS.
  • Ensure an agrarian revival by making remunerative support prices for farmers a legal guarantee and ensuring that food grains required for the PDS are procured in a decentralised manner from farmers all over the country at these remunerative prices.
Join us in our nation-wide campaign. Join the Yatra in your state to highlight these issues from 2 to 15 October 2012

And, join us at the mass meeting for Eastern India in Jamshedpur where state wide yatras from Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal will culminate on 16 October 2012.  

Khadyan Adhikar Yatra -Orissa,  Right to Food Campaign-Bihar, Right to Food and Work Campaign -West Bengal , Roti Rozi Adhikar Abhiyan -Jharkhand, Roti Rozi Adhikar Abhiyan Chattisgarh, New Trade Union Initiative