The National Human Rights Commission organized a day-long National Conference on 'Right to Food' in New Delhi today.
Addressing it, Mr. Justice K.G. Balakrishnan, Chairperson, NHRC said that the Commission has always been concerned with the issue. Due to it's intervention, there is a lot of improvement now in Kalahandi, Bolangir and Koraput (KBK) Districts of Odisha which reported starvations deaths.
The NHRC Chairperson said that there is improvement in food grain production, but its stocking and distribution among the needy is a point of concern.
Malnourished children and falling levels of calorie consumption are some other areas which require attention. Despite, Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS), Mid Day Meal Scheme, Targeted Public Distribution System and other such measures, a lot of ground needs to be covered to ensure Right to Food for all.
Justice Balakrishnan said that the NHRC is committed to taking up any issues affecting the rights of people. If it is brought to the notice of the Commission that the Direct Cash Transfer Scheme is violating rights, the NHRC would not hesitate to take up the matter with the government. However, the Commission would not jump to any conclusions on government schemes in a haste.
Sudhir Kumar, Secretary, Department of Food and Public Distribution, Government of India said that there is a record procurement of food grains, which is sufficient to take care of situation arising out of two bad monsoons. He said that leakages in Targeted Public Distribution System are a point of concern for which the government is taking measures.
Several prominent persons, including NHRC Members and senior officers, Mr. Harsh Mander, Director, Centre for Equity Studies, Dr. S.M. Jharwal, Chancellor, Indira Gandhi National Tribal University, Amarkantak, NHRC Special Rapporteurs, and representatives of civil society, SHRCs, Central and state governments participated in the discussions.
Some of the important suggestions, which emerged out of the conference are as follows:
Full nutritional security commitment in the National Food Security Bill has to be incorporated immediately;
Food will not be available unless adequate quantities are produced, properly stored and efficiently distributed;
Food availability cannot be restricted only to cereals; it must include pulses, oils, vegetables, fruits and animal-based proteins.
Food security entails making available adequate nutritional food that is locally acceptable. For this, the availability of safe drinking water is essential. All of this must be accessible and affordable;
Balanced diet should be provided in ICDS centres and Mid Day Meal Schemes;
The experience so far with the Targeted Public Distribution System shows that very large numbers of those who are hungry, poor or malnourished, and who need its support, are excluded. The government must keep this essential need under review, to eventually bring under its coverage all those in need;
Reform of the Public Distribution System is essential.(ANI)