The right to food in india
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The Right to Food in India. The Food Security Scenario in South Asia. Some Indicators for Child Wellbeing and malnutrition in South Asia. India’s Annual Growth Rate. Year GDP Per capita income 1951-79 3.6 1.3 1980-91 5.6 3.5 1992-06 6.5 4.7. Worrying issues.

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India’s Annual Growth Rate South Asia

Year GDP Per capita income

1951-79 3.6 1.3

1980-91 5.6 3.5

1992-06 6.5 4.7

Worrying issues
Worrying issues South Asia

  • News of starvation deaths & farmers’ suicides from many states

  • Stagnant agricultural production, and falling food availability

  • Unemployment has increased from 4 to 8% in ten years

  • Regional disparities are increasing

  • IMR stagnating around 60 per 1000, it is 46 in Bangladesh

  • Immunisation coverage fell from 60 to 40% in 5 yrs

  • More than 50% women are anemic

  • 46% children are malnourished

  • Declining child sex ratio during 1991-2001

  • There is no will to improve administration in poor states

Index number of agricultural production
Index number of Agricultural Production South Asia

Indexannual rate of growth

1981-82 100


1990-91 148


1996-97 176


2004-05 179

% of South AsiaWork Force dependent on


Poverty South Asia

Percentage below poverty line

1973 56

  • 39

    1994 35

    1999 26?

    2004 28

There should be no food insecurity in india
There should be no food insecurity in India South Asia

Both GDP and foodgrain production have risen faster than the growth in population over the last 50 years

And yet chronic hunger and starvation persist in large sections of the population. There has been a declining calorie consumption especially in the bottom 30% of the population.

India has the largest food schemes in the world
India has the largest food schemes in the World South Asia

  • Entitlement Feeding Programmes

    • ICDS (All Children under six, Pregnant and lactating mother)

    • MDMS (All Primary School children)

  • Food Subsidy Programmes

    • Targeted Public Distribution System (35 kgs/ month of subsidised food grains

    • Annapurna (10 kgs of free food grain for destitute poor)

  • Employment Programmes

    • National Rural Employment Scheme (100 days of employment at minimum wages)

  • Social Safety Net Programmes

    • National Old Age Pension Scheme (Monthly pension to BPL)

    • National Family Benefit Scheme (Compensation in case of death of bread winner to BPL families)

The right to food case
The Right to Food Case South Asia

  • PUCL petition on hunger in Rajasthan in the Supreme Court in 2001

  • Emergence of the Right to Food Campaign

  • Key Issues:

    • Making the Right to Food a Fundamental Right

    • Converting all existing schemes into entitlements

    • Tackling large scale malnutrition and chronic hunger

    • Securing employment as a fundamental right linked to the Right to Food

  • Longest continuing mandamus on the Right to Food in the World

    • 51 Interim Orders so far; more than 500 affidavits; nearly 70 Interim Applications

Highlights of supreme court orders on the right to food
Highlights of Supreme Court Orders on the Right to Food South Asia

  • Converted all food and employment schemes into legal entitlements

  • Universalised food entitlement programmes for children (ICDS for children under six and Mid Day Meal Scheme for all primary school children)

  • Instituted the independent mechanism of Commissioners to the Supreme Court to monitor all food and employment programmes

  • Prevented the reduction of the “poverty line” from 36% to 26%

  • Hauled up Government periodically by serving notice of contempt of court on senior most Government functionaries (Chief Secretaries)

Office of the commissioners to the supreme court writ 196 2001
Office of the Commissioners to the Supreme Court (Writ 196/ 2001)

  • Appointed by the Supreme Court to monitor all food schemes in the Country

  • Mandate extends to:

    • Entitlement Feeding Programmes

      • MDMS, ICDS

    • Employment Programmes


    • Food Subsidy Programme

      • TPDS, Antodaya Anna Yojana (AAY), Annapurna Yojana

    • Social Security Programmes

      • Pensions (NOAPS, NMBS, NFBS)

How does the office of the commissioners function
How does the Office of the Commissioners function? 2001)

  • Honorary positions; work supported by funds mandated by the Supreme Court

  • Works through a secretariat (Delhi) and a network of Advisers across India

  • Make policy recommendations through:

    • Rigorous participatory research

    • Articulating alternative demands of State policy

    • Participating in policy bodies such as Planning Commission Steering Groups

How does the office of the commissioners function cont d
How does the Office of the Commissioners function? (cont’d.)

  • Monitors programmes

    • Through analysis of macro-data

    • Addressing complaints at the micro-level

  • Holds the State accountable by:

    • Regular engagement with the GoI and State Governments

    • Joint Commission of Enquiries

    • Regular reports on non-compliance to the Supreme Court

Impact so far
Impact so far (cont’d.)

  • Universalisation of MDMS (120 million children get school meals) and ICDS (Government would need to double the ICDS centres to 1.4 million centres covering 60 million children under the age of six)

  • Managed to restrict the lowering of BPL quotas by GoI from 36% to 26%

  • Increase in off-take of subsidised food-grains through the targeted public distribution system

  • Increased budgetary allocation for ICDS, Old Age Pensions (3 times the amount)

  • Passage of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act which guarantees 100 days of employment a year (at minimum wages)

Impact so far cont d
Impact so far (cont’d.) (cont’d.)

  • Provided Civil Society an anchor to engage/ confront the State and created spaces for civil society to engage in food/ employment programmes

  • Brought the discourse on food rights to the centre-stage of governance in the States and GoI

  • Has been largely effective in provision of gratuitous relief (Tea Garden Workers in West Bengal).

  • Created the environment for the passage of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act

Off take of bpl aay food grains
Off-take of BPL/ AAY Food Grains (cont’d.)

  • Figure 3.1: Percentage off-take of BPL/AAY food grains from 2001-02 to 2004-05

Source: Various issues of Monthly food grain bulletin, Department of food and public distribution, GoI

Some challenges that we face
Some Challenges (cont’d.) that we face

  • Attempting reforms in an era of overall weakening governance and state commitment to social sectors

  • Has powers (including filing contempt charges against Chief Secretaries) which are best used by not being exercised

  • Operates in the domain of judicial activism

  • Challenge of individual redressal versus systemic policy engagement

  • Has proved to be marginally effective in harder areas of governance reforms