Right to Food
The distribution of iron fortified rice is part of the Government of India's push to combat anaemia and it will become a near mandatory programme for the poor, for whom this rice will be inescapable i.e., PDS, ICDS, school meals, etc.
The fact-finding visit was organised by Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA-Kisan Swaraj) and the Right To Food Campaign (RTFC) between June 13th to 15th 2022, and included a seven member team (two of whom are medical doctors).
The visit was conducted in four districts of the state (Kondagaon, Bastar, Surguja and Korba), and entailed interactions with scores of entitlement-holders/”beneficiaries”, frontline workers of various line departments, PDS dealers, medical experts, and senior government/executive functionaries at state and district levels.
The report by the fact-finding team highlights the major irregularities in the implementation of this programme, such as non-compliance to food safety regulations, iron related side effects, no screenings of patients of haemoglobinopathies for whom iron is contra-indicated, among other points. All this raises questions about fortification as a safe and effective strategy to address malnutrition in India.
Please click here to access the Executive Summary of the Report by the Chhattisgarh Fact Finding Team dated June 19, 2022.
Please click here to access the Report of the Fact Finding Visit to Jharkhand, on Rice Fortification in Government Food Schemes (released in May, 2022). The visit took place during 8-11 May, 2022. The report has been prepared by Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA-Kisan Swaraj) and the Right To Food Campaign.
The team members were:
1. Dr Vandana Prasad, Community Pediatrician and Public Health Expert, Former Member (Child Health) National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), Member National Secretariat Advisory Group, Right to Food Campaign;
This fact-finding team is of the firm view that in a large scale approach to rice fortification like is being adopted by Governments right now, even a screening process prior to fortified rice distribution does not resolve the problem of at-risk individuals, because within a household, it is unlikely that two different rices (fortified and unfortified) will be cooked for every meal for the contra-indicated cases and healthy persons. It is also unlikely that the government would be able to put into place any mechanisms by which entitlements of each person in a household can be distributed distinctly in the PDS system as fortified and non-fortified rice, to cater to individual needs and medical conditions. While that is about (lack of) capabilities of the State to deliver in a tailor-made fashion to patients separately from healthy persons in a community, it is also very apparent that most households are deeply dependent on the entitlements that they access from the PDS system. It is clear that avoidance of risk to the vulnerable contra-indicated persons requires the stopping of the supply of fortified rice itself in Jharkhand.
In the name of rice fortification, the government is causing a major disruption to people’s major source of nutrition – rice – unnecessarily, and without any due consideration of their right to choose what food they would like to consume.
Considering that many other alternatives exist, like better micro-nutrient supplementation programmes and holistic approaches that promote adequate and diverse diets, this nearmandatory rice fortification is extremely high-handed and violative of people’s right to food, especially when it comes to the poor.
The fact finding team believes that Jharkhand Government needs to reject rice fortification in government food schemes as an approach to tackling malnutrition, and should communicate the same to the Government of India immediately. The Central and State Governments should instead invest on holistic, sustainable, natural and community-controlled solutions, as described in the earlier section of this report.
Nearly 170 individuals and organisations along with the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA Kisan Swaraj) have written to the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) urging it to scrap its plans to make synthetic/ chemical fortification of foods mandatory in India. They cited detrimental and irreversible health and socio-economic impacts such as market shifts in favor of large corporations, loss of livelihoods for small and informal players, monocultures in diets and reliance on packaged foods, lack of independent and conclusive evidence, and conflict-of-interest concerns. Please click here and here to access the Press release by Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture (ASHA Kisan Swaraj) dated 2 August, 2021.
In its press release dated 29th June, 2021, the Right to Food Campaign has appreciated the Supreme Court of India's direction to give rations to the inter-state migrant workers, including those who don't have ration cards, and revise state-wise coverage of food security net under the National Food Security Act (NFSA). The Supreme Court took cognizance of the fact that the state wise coverage of the public distribution system (PDS) under the NFSA was determined on the basis of the 2011 census and has not been revised since then, leading to exclusion of many persons in need. The Right to Food Campaign Secretariat has urged the Central and State Governments to effectively implement these orders throughout the country.
Please click here to access the Press release by the Right to Food Campaign dated 29th June, 2021. Kindly click here to access the SC judgement to Writ Petition (C) No.916 of 2020 dated 29th June, 2021.
The Supreme Court of India on 24th May 2021 has directed that dry ration has to be distributed to migrant workers throughout the country by the States under the Atmanirbhar Scheme or any other scheme found suitable by the States/ Centre. Further, the SC has directed all the States/ Union Territories to make operational community kitchens to provide food to migrant workers all over the country and ensure wide publicity of the locations of community kitchens. The plea to universalise food from community kitchens and provision of dry ration to all migrant workers across India has been accepted.
The intervenors Harsh Mander, Anjali Bhardwaj and Jagdeep Chhokar in suo motu writ petition (civil) 6/2020 IA no. 58769/2021 were represented by Prashant Bhushan and Cheryl D’souza. The intervention applications, orders of the Supreme Court and the affidavits filed by UOI and the states can be accessed here -- https://bit.ly/2Sju3HO.
Against the backdrop of rise in Covid-19 daily new deaths across the country and local level lockdowns being imposed by various State Governments, India is once again witnessing severe economic distress amongst its working class. The livelihood and food security crisis that is being faced by the poor, daily wage workers and the informal sector workers of the country has been completely invisibilised with hardly any special packages being announced by the Central Government.
News reports indicate that 13.09 million tonnes of non-basmati rice, 4.63 million tonnes of basmati rice and 2.09 million tonnes of wheat were exported in 2020-21, a year when millions of Indians faced a situation of hunger and food insecurity. The Right to Food Campaign in its press statement has condemned the export of foodgrain and has demanded Universalisation of the Public Distribution System.
Please click here to access the Press Release by Right to Food Campaign Secretariat dated 23rd May 2021.
In a press statement dated 10th May, 2021, the Right to Food Campaign, a civil society group working for elimination of hunger and undernutrition in the country, has expressed its shock and dismay over a recent interview given to Business Standard by Mr. Bishow Parajuli, India Country Director for United Nations World Food Programme, in which he said that “universalising the PDS ... might not be feasible as everyone in India does not need social protection.” However, the campaign is pleased to note that Mr. Parajuli acknowledges the importance of a diverse diet that includes fresh vegetables, fruits, and eggs. Please click here to access the Press release by the Right to Food Campaign, dated 10th May, 2021.
Please click here and here to access the Results of the second round of survey conducted by Right to Food Campaign, Jharkhand chapter during second and third week of May 2020, dated 26th May, 2020.
Kindly click here and here to access the Results of the first round of survey conducted by Right to Food Campaign, Jharkhand chapter during first week of April 2020, dated 10th April, 2020.
Please click here to access the Response of civil society activists to the Finance Minister’s announcement of Rs 1.7 lakh crore package in the wake of COVID-19, dated 26th March, 2020.
Please click here to access the Open Letter from the Right to Food Campaign to the Prime Minister of India in the wake of COVID-19, dated 19th March, 2020.
As per the CAG report on the status of NFSA's implementation (tabled in Parliament on 29 April, 2016), officially entitled 'CAG Audit Report no. 54 of 2015 on the Preparedness for implementation of NFSA (2013)' (please click here to access):