News / Health

India Formulates Sweeping New Legal Guarantee of Right to Food

A family of workers sits near a kitchen fire at a makeshift shelter near a construction site, in Gurgaon, India, (file photo)
A family of workers sits near a kitchen fire at a makeshift shelter near a construction site, in Gurgaon, India, (file photo)

This week, an annual hunger index put India behind North Korea and Sudan in terms of addressing malnutrition.  Now, India is believed to be less than a year away from enacting a sweeping law it hopes will bring relief. 

Ambitious law

Hundreds of millions of Indians live near the brink of starvation.  Biraj Patnaik, a Commissioner to India's Supreme Court, is advising policy makers on a new law to help change that.

"The National Food Security Act is by far one of the most ambitious legislations that have been attempted in this country since independence," Patnaik said.

The act would legislate the right to food in India, largely in the form of subsidized wheat and rice from the government.  Patnaik, who has worked on the law for ten years, says a lot of time has been spent determining just who should be legally entitled to food security.

"That's really the debate," said Patnaik.  "Whether India should really be looking at identifying a poverty line and targeting people, or should they just be looking at creating universal entitlement where every single citizen in the country is entitled to this right, whether they choose to exercise it or not."

Reliance on PDS

The act would rely in large part on India's Public Distribution System.  The PDS handles massive amounts of government grain, but is widely criticized for waste, corruption and inefficiency.  Indian authorities acknowledge less than half the grains processed through the PDS actually make it to the intended recipients.  Indian media have also focused public attention in recent months on thousands of tons of grain rotting in the open, due to insufficient storage capacity.

The new law is expected to spell out reforms of the Public Distribution System, including new investments in transport and storage.  Devinder Sherma, a food policy analyst, says the new law should aim to decentralize the food system and set up local grain banks.

"I don't understand why, in a village where people produce food -- and in fact many times surplus food-- people should be going hungry in that same village," Sherma said. "Let's make villages self-sufficient as far as food is concerned.  And then we target only the urban centers by this public distribution system."

Hunger index

Purnima Menon is a research fellow at the Institute for Food Policy Research in New Delhi.  Her institute's 2010 Global Hunger Index, which came out this week, ranked India 67th worst out of 84 developing nations battling hunger.

She says the law has sparked discussions that go beyond how to distribute wheat and rice.  She views the law as an opportunity for India to completely redefine food security.

"What does it mean for a child whose only food security is to be breast fed?  Is the Food Security Act going to actually cover that, and make sure that mom is able to stay home from work and breast feed, because, really, that's the only way you can ensure food security for a baby," Menon said.

Biraj Patnaik, the Supreme Court Commissioner, is confident the law will pass.  But once that happens, he is concerned about whether the government has the political will to enforce it.

"Can an ordinary person who is deprived of their entitlement under this act ever hope that they would get justice out of the system and that their grievance would be addressed?...  If a child dies of malnutrition... someone has to be punished," Patnaik said.

Others have expressed concern that issues of clean water and sanitation for India's poorest regions have been left out of the debate over the National Food Security Act.   Ensuring those services are key in helping the poor avoid illnesses that prevent them from absorbing nutrition.

You May Like

China May Be Biggest Winner From Ukraine Crisis

Missile sales, oil and gas shipments are among many areas that may drive Beijing and Moscow closer together in coming years More

Obama Faces Chaotic World, Limits of Power

Current foreign policy issues bring into focus challenges for US policymakers who are mindful of Americans' waning appetite for overseas military engagements More

SADC Meeting Lesotho Officials to Resolve Stalemate

Official says regional bloc has been engaged with leaders in Lesotho to resolve political disagreement that led to coup attempt More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015i
X
Carol Pearson
August 30, 2014 7:14 PM
A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Ukraine Battles Pro-Russia Rebel Assault

After NATO concluded an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis in eastern Ukraine, the country is struggling to contain heavy fighting near the strategic port of Mariupol, on the Azov Sea. Separatist rebels are trying to capture the city, allegedly with Russian military help, and Ukraine's defense forces are digging in. VOA's Daniel Schearf spoke with analysts about what lies ahead for Ukraine.
Video

Video Growing Business Offers Paint with a Twist of Wine

Two New Orleans area women started a small business seven years ago with one thing in mind: to help their neighbors relieve the stress of coping with a hurricane's aftermath. Today their business, which pairs painting and a little bit of wine, has become one of the fastest growing franchises across the U.S. VOA’s June Soh met the entrepreneurs at their newest franchise location in the Washington suburbs.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Trials To Begin Next Week

The National Institutes of Health says it is launching early stage trials of a vaccine to prevent the Ebola virus, which has infected or killed thousands of people across West Africa. The World Health Organization says Ebola could infect more than 20,000 people across the region by the time the outbreak is over. The epidemic has health experts and governments scrambling to prevent more people from becoming infected. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Asian Bacteria Threatens Florida Orange Trees

Florida's citrus fruit industry is facing a serious threat from a bacteria carried by the Asian insect called psyllid. The widespread infestation again highlights the danger of transferring non-native species to American soil. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Aging Will Reduce Economic Growth Worldwide in Coming Decades

The world is getting older, fast. And as more people retire each year, fewer working-age people will be there to replace them. Bond rating agency Moody’s says that will lead to a decline in household savings; reducing global investments - which in turn, will lead to slower economic growth around the world. But experts say it’s not too late to mitigate the economic impact of the world’s aging populations. Mil Arcega has more.
Video

Video Is West Doing Enough to Tackle Islamic State?

U.S. President Barack Obama has ruled out sending ground troops to Iraq to fight militants of the so-called Islamic State, or ISIS, despite officials in Washington describing the extremist group as the biggest threat the United States has faced in years. Henry Ridgwell reports from London on the growing uncertainty over whether the West’s response to ISIS will be enough to defeat the terrorist threat.
Video

Video Coalition to Fight Islamic State Could Reward Assad

The United States along with European and Mideast allies are considering a broader assault against Islamic State fighters who have spread from Syria into Iraq and risk further destabilizing an already troubled region. But as VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, confronting those militants could end up helping the embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Video

Video Made in America Socks Get Toehold in Online Fashion Market

Three young entrepreneurs are hoping to revolutionize the high-end sock industry by introducing all-American creations of their own. And they’re doing most of it the old-fashioned way. VOA’s Julie Taboh recently caught up with them to learn what goes into making their one-of-a-kind socks.
Video

Video Americans, Ex-Pats Send Relief Supplies to West Africa

Health organizations from around the world are sending supplies and specialists to the West African countries that are dealing with the worst Ebola outbreak in history. On a smaller scale, ordinary Americans and African expatriates living in the United States are doing the same. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.

AppleAndroid