Hundreds of us women, men and children have assembled at Jantar Mantar for three days (on 13-15 December), from 11 different states, to reassert our demand for a comprehensive National Food Security Act.
During the last four years we have held similar agitations and protests, at Jantar Mantar and all over the country, in pursuit of this demand. However, the government is proving deaf to this demand. A very weak National Food Security Bill was tabled in Parliament in December 2011, and has been languishing with a standing committee ever since. Today, the government seems all set to forget the Act and is trying, instead, to hoodwink the public with false promises of mass cash transfers before the 2014 elections.
The accelerated drive for cash transfers is a major threat to the Public Distribution System, which has become a lifeline for millions of people. Testimony after testimony during the dharna conveyed the importance of a well-functioning PDS for people who live on the margin of subsistence. The little rice, wheat and other commodities that people get from the PDS are hard-won entitlements, and we are not prepared to give them up.
Our notion of a comprehensive National Food Security Act includes: (1) A universal PDS that provides cereals, millets, pulses and oil (with quantities based of ICMR norms); (2) Appropriate MSPs and decentralised procurement of rice, wheat and millets; (3) Universalization with quality of ICDS including the provision of nutritious locally prepared food for all children; (4) Other essential entitlements including social security pensions for vulnerable persons (the aged, single women, and persons with disabilities), school mid-day meals, maternity entitlements, and community kitchens in urban areas.
We resolve to continue our united struggle for a comprehensive National Food Security until these demands are met. This is not just a struggle for food security but also for a society where everyone’s basic needs are taken care of as a matter of social responsibility.
Our next step in this struggle will be a national convention on the right to food, to be held during the Budget Session of Parliament.
Jantar Mantar, New Delhi
15 December 2012