NEW DELHI: The Right of Food Campaign has charged the Central government with lack of commitment in providing food and nutrition security to citizens with its reported decision to revise the issue prices of wheat and rice for the Above Poverty Line (APL) category of beneficiaries in the Public Distribution System (PDS).
“This is the first step to finish off the subsidised food grains scheme,” the Campaign said on Sunday.
“The move, coupled with the rejection of subsidised food grains entitlement for the APL category, by the experts group headed by Chairman of Prime Minister’s Economic Advisory Council C. Rangarajan shows that elimination of hunger and malnutrition, which is a constitutional requirement and international commitment under the Millennium Development Goals, is a non-issue for the government,” it said.
“What has dismayed us is that when food inflation is reaching 18.6 per cent and the prices of essential commodities are shooting up, the Centre, failing to control and stabilise prices, is now moving towards raising the prices of wheat and rice for the APL cardholders. We want the decision — though held in abeyance — to be reversed immediately.”
Demanding a comprehensive National Food Security Act with a universal PDS, the Campaign said the artificial divide between the APL and the Below Poverty Line (BPL) be removed, as more than 50 per cent of the deserving people were excluded due to inaccurate targeting.
“Instead of widening the coverage of subsidised food at affordable prices, this move of increasing the prices or recommending that only a small percentage of the population be made beneficiaries of subsidised food shows that the whole exercise of ensuring food security to the people through a National Food Security Act is a dishonest proposal of the government,” the Campaign said.
The Rangarajan panel, formed to study the recommendations of the National Advisory Council on the proposed National Food Security Bill, has recommended in a report that the APL or ‘general category’ of beneficiaries under the PDS not be included for legal entitlement under the proposed Act on considerations of administrative feasibility and current levels of procurement of food grains and production.
Besides the Member-secretary of the Planning Commission and Economic Adviser to the Finance Ministry, the Union Secretaries of Food, Agriculture and Expenditure were members of the panel.
The Campaign wants the government to ensure that the proposed Food Security Bill was expanded to ensure ‘nutrition’ security by covering vulnerable groups and providing for universal mid-day meals and anganwadi services, maternity entitlements and social security pensions.
The signatories to the Campaign include representatives of the National Campaign for People’s Right to Information, National Federation of Indian Women, New Trade Union Initiative, Breast Feeding Promotion Network of India, National Alliance of People’s Movements, Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti, National Conference of Dalit Organisations, Human Rights Law Network, Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture, People’s Union for Civil Liberties, National Forum for Single Women’s Rights, Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, National Campaign on Dalit Human Rights, Rashtriya Viklang Manch and the National Campaign Committee for Unorganised Sector Workers.