(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
July 29, 2012
Right to Food
A Fundamental Right
THE month-long joint
movement on the issue of food security conducted by the four
Left parties will
culminate in a five-day dharna before the parliament beginning
July 30, 2012.
During this month-long
struggles took place across the country for BPL cards for all
adequate supply of foodgrains and other essential commodities
through the public
distribution system (PDS) and to stop the siphoning off of
foodgrains from the
PDS for profiteering and black market.
The main focus of this
campaign is to
pressurise this UPA-2 government to enact a food security law
that every single family in the country, both BPL and APL, will
be provided 35
kg of foodgrains every month at Rs 2/kg.
This is the only way in which the problems of hunger and
can be resolved.
According to the
United Nation’s Global
Hunger Index (GHI), India ranks 67 amongst the 80 countries in
the world which
suffer from acute hunger of its people.
25 per cent of the world’s hungry are (shameful to admit)
to this index, India
ranks even below countries like North Korea and civil war ridden
One-third of the
suffering from malnutrition, below the age of five, are in
India. 44 per cent
of our children are
underweight. 72 per
cent suffer from
anemia. Worse, 52
per cent of pregnant
women suffer from anemia. They
giving birth to the future of India. Thousands
of children die every day in our country due to completely
Even on this count,
there are two
Indias in the making. 11
per cent of our
people suffer from `overnutrition’, i.e., consuming too many or
too much of
wrong type of calories. At the other end of the spectrum, the
number of obese people are in India. This is the `shining’ India
diseases caused by plenty.
The main cause for
the non-availability of proper nutrition due to food insecurity.
This is the
main reason for the persistence of hunger.
By conservative estimates, 75 per cent of rural Indians
and 73 per cent
of the urban have a daily intake of calories that is lower than
required for mere survival.
That this situation
will be reversed
if India regains its GDP growth rate is negated by the fact that
the growth of
foodgrains output has reduced to 1.3 per cent annually during
the first decade
of this century (coinciding with the period of high GDP growth)
from 2.7 per
cent during the pre-economic reform decade of 1980s. This has led, in turn,
to a decline in the
per capita availability of foodgrains from 494 grams per day per
head in 1990 to
438 in 2009.
With the introduction
neo-liberal economic reforms, the universal public distribution
ration cards was abandoned in 1997. Notwithstanding its
and associated corruption, this system allowed 21 million tonnes
i.e., 45 per cent of the available food stock in 1991 to be
the ration shops. By
distribution reduced to a mere 13 million.
to be in a state of denial in accepting the realities of poverty
and misery of
the vast majority of the Indian people.
It refuses to release the excess stock of foodgrains held
in the central
government godowns to be given to the states at BPL prices for
the poor. As of
June 1, 2012, the
government had food stocks of 82.3 million tonnes. This is in excess of
the buffer norm requirement
by over 50 million tones. 6.6
tonnes of this grain is rotting in open spaces as the government
this UPA-2 government
refuses to release these stocks. The former finance minister,
now the president
of India, had told the parliament that the government would need
to spend at
least Rs 20,000 crores to create spaces for storing the
foodgrains that will be
procured in the current season.
government refuses to release these stocks and instead is
seeking to export
them for profit keeping our own people hungry. What else are
merchants of death?
The 13th president of
took his oath of office, today, as we go to press. In his
acceptance speech in
the parliament’s Central Hall, he defined economic equity as the
of all equalities. “For our development to be real the poorest
of our land must
feel that they are part of the narrative of rising India”. On
this basis, he gives
us a new vision of our `tryst with destiny’: “to eliminate the
poverty, and create such opportunities for the young that they
can take our
India forward by quantum leaps.
no humiliation more abusive than hunger.
Trickle-down theories do not address the legitimate
aspirations of the
poor. We must lift
those at the bottom
so that poverty is erased from the dictionary of modern India.”
If there is any
sincerity in realising
this vision, then the president must direct `his government’ to
Right to Food as a fundamental right of all our people. We can begin the
journey to realise this
vision, Hon’ble President, only when we enact a law that ensures
family in our country is provided with 35 kg of foodgrains every
month at Rs 2/kg.
It is precisely to
objective and, thus, banish hunger from our country that the
Left parties are
pressurising this UPA government through this five-day dharna
before the parliament. Such
popular mobilisations will have to be
strengthened in the future in order to create a better India
sans hunger and
(July 25, 2012)