Differences with NAC push Dreze to quit food panel
After giving his dissent note on the National Advisory Council's draft food security law, noted socio-economist Jean Dreze, a NAC member, has resigned from the working group entrusted with the job to suggest framework of the new food law to the government.
Dreze apparently wanted the proposed National Food Security law to cover all Indians, instead of 90 % people in rural India and 50% in urban India as suggested by NAC. But, the working group did not agree with his views, resulting in his resignation.
The NAC finalized a draft of National Food Security Bill in January 2011 and has sought public comments on it. Dreze had termed the NAC draft as a minimalist concept as it did not ensure nutritional security to all and instead, provided for limited expansion of the Public Distribution System (PDS).
The Right to Food Campaign, with whom Dreze has been associated, on Monday released its critique of the NAC draft and said it provides only five limited guarantees and does not ensure food security. The guarantees were a fragmented PDS, limited maternal and child benefits, provision of cooked food for vulnerable sections, ration cards in the name of women and portability of rations cards to migrant labour.
"The adolescent girls have been left out of the NAC draft," said Arun Gupta, national coordinator of Breastfeeding Network of India. The Supreme Court in 2006 asked the government to universalize the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) to every child under the age of six, all pregnant women and lactating mothers and adolescent girls. "It is impossible to understand the grounds or logic which an already existing entitlement for a group of children has been omitted in the proposed NAC framework".
The group also said that the 3k kg of foodgrains per month for priority group and 20 kg for general households would meet the requirement of a family only for 10-15 days.
"The present proposals will provide for legal guarantees only for the distribution of cereals. There is no mention of other essential commodities such as pulses and edible oil as legal guarantees," a statement signed by 37 groups from across India, said.
While welcoming the NAC's recommendations on provision for community canteens, the campaign said removal of a guarantee of pensions to the old, single women, differently-abled from the framework of the entitlements is a major step backwards.
Hoping that the NAC will reconsider some of its decisions, the Right to Food Campaign asked for a government obligation to protect everyone from hunger and protection of small farmers through remunerative food pricing.