'Link food bill to agriculture'

Civil society groups oppose cash transfer policy

prasanna

Prasanna Mohanty | April 21, 2010



Civil society groups campaigning for the right to food have urged the government to urge a range of issues including revitalising agriculture to make the proposed National Food Security Bill effective.

They have written a letter to Planning Commission deputy chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia, pointing out that the proposed bill has a narrow focus and would fail to address the real issues.

The letter, signed by Jean Dreze, Aruna Roy, Sandeep Pandey and others, provides a six-point charter of issues that should be addressed simultaneously while framing the bill, rather than restricting it to providing 25 kg of food grain to a certain number of BPL families.

The first point in the charter says the proposed bill should be linked to revitalising and incentivising agriculture production. The government must provide incentives for production of pulses, oil seeds and millet too, and not just wheat and rice. Until malnutrition is eradicated, there should be a ban on export of food items and GM crops. Corporate bodies should be kept out.

The second point refers to reversing the policy of targeted PDS to the universal PDS system with an emphasis on setting up local grain banks. The civil society groups are against Ahluwalia’s suggestion of a cash transfer policy. “We categorically reject cash transfer replacing food transfer under any nutrition-related scheme,” they assert and go on to explain that the cash transfer system can’t keep with inflation.

“Moreover, there is danger of cash being expropriated for use other than food and women and children being made vulnerable to hunger.”

In addition to ration, others measures like pension schemes, antyodyay cards and cooked meals etc should continue for protection of socially discriminated and vulnerable groups .

The charter also warns against any dilution of the Supreme Court orders regarding ICDS, mid-day meals, family pension scheme, old-age pension etc. Special emergency measures in time of disaster and in case of starvation-like situation should also be adopted.

Finally, the charter speaks of an effective grievance redressal system to ensure stiff punishment for wrong doers and transparency in the system.

The charter of demands was prepared after all the civil society groups gathered in New Delhi to deliberate on the issue and express their protest against the proposed food bill which, they think, falls short of their expectations.



 

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