FOOD FOR ALL
What’s in news?
The Supreme Court has asked the Centre to file its reply to the petition seeking setting up of community kitchens pan-India, to eradicate hunger, malnutrition and starvation deaths prevalent in the country.
- The petitioners relied on various census and statistical reports to assert that malnutrition and hunger were soaring at an alarming rate in the country, threatening the ‘Right to Food’ and inadvertently, the ‘Right to Life’, enshrined under Article 21 of the Constitution.
- The UN World Food Programme, UN WHO: Global Database on Child Growth and Malnutrition, 2006, UN Food and Agriculture Organization: SOFI 2006 Report, it has been reported that 7000 persons (including children) die of hunger every day and over 25 Lakh persons (including children) die of hunger, annually.
- Food and Agriculture Report, 2018 stated that India houses 195.9 million of the 821 million undernourished people in the world, accounting for approximately 24% of the world’s hungry.
- Prevalence of undernourishment in India is 14.8%, higher than both the global and Asian average.
- The most alarming figure revealed is that approximately 4500 children die every day under the age of five years in our country resulting from hunger and malnutrition, amounting to over three lakh deaths every year owing to hunger, of children alone.
- The figures for availability of food in India clearly point towards widespread hunger of people and animals in India. And every available statistical indicator confirms the prevalence of hunger.
- Various schemes run by government to address the problem of hunger are futile in as much as there are eligible persons who have not been issued cards requisite to avail subsidies and benefits and then there is a segment of persons who are homeless and outside the grid of these schemes for the mere reasons that they do not possess a roof on their head.
- PDS system in India which accounts for distribution of wheat and rice, only, does not account for proteins and other components of a well-balanced diet, in turn leads to malnutrition.
What are Community Kitchens?
- Community kitchens are institutions that provide cheap or free nutritious food as a service to the general public usually run by religious institutions or by the state.
- These are viewed as a complement to the existing schemes of the Government for combating hunger and malnutrition in India.
- A Bench led by Justice N.V. Ramana issued notice to the government on the petition filed jointly by activists Anun Dhawan, Ishann Dhawan and Kunjana Singh.
- The plea seeks to establish state-funded or Public Private Partnership (PPP) community kitchens pan-India, to eradicate hunger, malnutrition and starvation deaths prevalent in the country.
- It urged the court to direct the Chief Secretaries across the country to formulate schemes for the implementation of community kitchens.
- It called for the creation of a national food grid by the Centre that would be beyond the scope of the Public Distribution Scheme (PDS).
- It has sought Direct the National Legal Services Authority to formulate a scheme to further the provisions of Article 51A of the Constitution of India in order to mitigate deaths resulting from hunger, malnutrition and starvation.
- It has also been suggested by the Petitioners that these establishments could be set up in the form of Public Private Partnership (PPP) to effectively utilize funds under Corporate Social Responsibility as per Section 135 of the Companies Act, 2013.
- The Petitioners also clarified that they did not seek replacement of any of the existing government schemes and rather anticipated these establishments as an added mechanism for provision of nutritious food.
- The plea sets out the success stories of various community kitchens established by certain states in India viz. Amma Unavagam in Tamil Nadu, Anna Canteen in Andhra Pradesh, Ahaar Centre in Odisha, etc.
- Rajasthan’s Annapurna Rasoi, Indira Canteens in Karnataka, Delhi’s Aam Aadmi Canteen, Jharkhand Mukhyamantri Dal Bhat are successful in combating starvation and malnutrition crisis.
- The “soup kitchens” in the U.S. and Europe feed the poor by serving a limited menu of nutritious cooked food at below the market price.
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