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

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

    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.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.