Call for action

The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) ensures the right to an adequate standard of living. The Declaration specifically mentions the Right to Food: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services (…)” (Article 25). The human rights established in the Declaration are universal.

The Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights was ratified by the Indian Parliament in 1979. It establishes the “(…) fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger” and that State Parties “shall take, individually and through international cooperation, the measures, including specific programmes, which are needed” (Article 11),

The Convention on the right of the Right of the Child was ratified by the Indian Parliament in 1992 states that children are bearers of human rights. As children are especially vulnerable to human rights violations, they should specifically be target in the fulfillment of human rights.

The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women was ratified by the Indian Parliament in 1993, and ensures that all forms of discrimination against women is a violation on their human rights,

The Food and Agriculture Organization was established in 1945 with India as a member. FAO works for universal freedom from hunger and the promotion of right to food. FAO’s definition of the right to food includes nutritional and cultural aspects.

The Sustainable Development Goals came into action in 2015. 193 Member States of the United Nations officially adopted them.
Goal 2: “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture”.

Despite of these National and International provisions and obligations, the prevalence of undernutrition and micronutrient deficiencies, especially in the rural population, is still alarming.

Therefore the Government’s National Food Security Act is a positive step. The Right to Food is the foremost right of every human being. However, only a law guaranteeing food security in terms of production, availability and accessibility to nutritious food can lift people out of hunger, undernutrition.

The Child Trust and FIAN demands that the National Food Security Act:

  • Must be universal
  • Must ensure Government’s responsibility for securing people’s livelihoods
  • Must ensure Government’s responsibility for allocating necessary resources. Access to natural resources is critical for farmers, and ensured access to such resources will allow many to live above the poverty line without the need of subsidized food. It would  lighten the burden on PDS and other distribution systems
  • 94% of India’s work force belongs to the informal and unorganized sector which is chronically underpaid. FSA should focus on fair wage policies and legislations. The Act should consider the insufficient enforcement of existing labor legislation at the federal and the state levels, as well as the lack of awareness among employers on the existing rules and standards. This leads to exploitation of labors and forced participation of children in work. The FSA must include provisions protecting Indian citizens’ abilities to earn adequate wages as families earning at least minimum wage for their labor will be able to maintain healthy diets and rely far less on subsidized food grains for nourishment.
  • Must ensure the Public Distribution System form the basis of the implementation of the Act, and the focus on all children irrespective of within the family setup or in alternate care option, or in school or school drop outs, living alone or on streets should be ensured food security. Special focus should be given on Children involved in labor/bonded labor and victims of all kind of child abuse.
  • Migration is another issue which is connected to hunger and poverty. Low and vulnerable agricultural production coupled with lack of employment are two big reasons of migrations. Migrant workers have few entitlements when compared to their employers or the skilled workers in the organized sector, they have no provision of safe drinking water or hygienic sanitation, low/no access to various health and family care programs due to their temporary status. Food costs more for migrant workers who are not able to obtain temporary ration cards
  • Must provide for more than 25 kg of grain per family since it is not enough to cover the needs of an entire family
  • Must contain nutritional aspects in entitlements including subsidized pulses and oil
  • FSA must include a provision requiring foods for distribution, at least 80%, be locally grown in order to stimulate local agricultural economies and provide income for farmers.  Procurement of food grains from local farmers and its storage at local level should help in minimizing wastage and transportation cost of food grains, which is lacking in the current procurement, management and distribution system and needs immediate attention. This will also increase the cultural relevance of the foods distributed
  • Local farmers and women producer groups should be empowered through training and capacity building towards production of locally grown food and same groups should be linked to markets for financial sustainability. Village based manufacturing and prioritization of local market enterprises should be encouraged
  • The Government should also evaluate all their programmes , schemes and acts which may directly or indirectly affect the food security and make changes to them accordingly. One of the examples is the National Water Policy 2012, which should be evaluated for access to clean drinking water and irrigable water for ALL
  • Must institute a National Monitoring Mechanism linked to the Prime Minister’s office
  • Must include strong inbuilt, independent institutions for accountability with Grievance Redressal provisions and mandatory penalties for any violation and compensation to victims.