No regard for kids in draft food security bill: Activists

The draft National Food Security Bill, which has been approved by the Empowered Group of Ministers (EGoM), has scant regard for children and does not assure their right to food security, activists of the Right to Food campaign said Monday.

“It appears that the government does not consider the specific issues related to the food security of children, who form about 40 percent of the population, or the vast problem of malnutrition,” said a statement by the Working Group for Children Under Six (Jan Swasthya Abhiyan – Right to Food Campaign).

“While the National Advisory Committee (NAC) draft had at least given due consideration to food entitlements for children, this draft is a pathetic attempt to pass off some expansion of the targeted Public Distribution System ( PDS) as a national law protecting national food security,” it added.

The Sonia Gandhi-led NAC finalised its draft of the bill which seeks to entitle nearly 75 percent of India’s population to subsidised foodgrains.

The major highlight of the draft bill is that it guarantees subsidized food grain to at least 90 percent of the rural households, and 50 percent of the urban households.

The EGoM recently approved the draft of the National Food Security Bill (NFSB) prepared by the Department of Food and Consumer Affairs which is slated to be placed before the cabinet.

“By providing for maternity entitlements, the NAC draft recognised this as a critical legal entitlement for over 15 crore women working in the informal sector and the food security of very young children. However, the draft of the ministry has entirely struck it off,” the statement said.

“Similarly, the current legal guarantee of hot cooked meals for children attending anganwadis has been diluted by providing the option of ready-to-eat food in this draft which suggests that the bill is more about creating markets and protecting corporate interests than the interests of children,” it added.

The draft bill, the statement said, minimises the government’s responsibilities, restricts children’s entitlements and avoids any accountability.”Contrary to the government’s claim that this draft bill is based on the NAC draft, it actually removes or dilutes most of the core principles of the NAC’s modest proposal,” it said.