It is being hailed as independent India’s biggest, boldest effort to free the nation of hunger, but Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s latest project falls short of drastic changes advised by a judicial committee.
A Supreme Court report released last week recommends every Indian with an income below Rs. 100 a day be considered poor, be eligible for official subsidies, including 35 kg of grain for his or her family.
<b1>The report by former Supreme Court Justice D P Wadhwa widens the definition of poverty, adding about 500 million people to the ranks of the poor and will demand about Rs. 82,100 crore above the Rs. 118,535 crore the government hopes to spend fighting poverty in 2010-11.
The report comes at a time when the Union cabinet is likely to clear this week the seminal Food Security Bill, 2010, with distinctly weaker provisions, before placing it in Parliament: Based on such reports, the Supreme Court has virtually taken over India’s hunger policy for the past nine years, passing more than 50 orders in what is now one of the world’s most remarkable cases of judicial intervention — a public interest litigation commonly called the right to food case
The Wadhwa report could become law if SC accepts it in hearings slated for next month.