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Activists intensify food bill agitation

RANCHI: Activists of the Right to Food Campaign have decided to intensify public pressure to bring about logical changes in the proposed bill.

Expressing discontent over the inordinate delay in tabling the bill, adviser to the monitoring committee of the Supreme Court for food security scheme Balram, said they wanted the bill to be passed but with necessary amendments. “We have been campaigning for a holistic bill covering all aspects of people’s basic right to fight against hunger and have no objection to the legislation as long as certain amendments are accepted by the government,” he said.

The campaign is a decentralized network of over 70 groups across the country that came into origin in 2001 when the Rajasthan unit of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL) filed a PIL at the Supreme Court demanding Rght to Food in India. The campaign has been conducting surveys and submitting reports to the apex court in course of hearing. Balram said while they had strong objections to some of the provisions of the bill, they were happy that some suggestions were incorporated. “We want the amendments introduced by CPI, CPM and Trinamool Congress to be incorporated and instead of bringing it from back door through ordinance, the government should have an elaborate debate on the floor of the parliament,” he said.

The activists have decided to hold a meeting in New Delhi on June 30 followed by another meeting with UN special rapporteur on Right To Food Oliver D Shooter on July 3. “At present, BPL families are getting 35kg foodgrain at rate of Rs 1 per kilogram in Jharkhand, whereas the bill proposed 25kg for Rs 3 per kilogram which sounds illogical,” Balram said.

Vinay Ohdar, another activist, said the bill’s present format was nothing but a conspiracy to hand over Indian agriculture and distribution system to the corporate houses. “We have to understand the larger plot under which government is planning to hand over farm lands to corporate houses where farmers would lose their land rights and work as labourers,” he said. He also argued that minimum support price was given to the farmers by government but the bill was silent who would get it once corporate houses enter the business of consolidated and large scale farming.

The component of grievance redress mechanism is missing from the draft bill. Balram said people were not expected to move court if they did not get foodgrains under the public distribution system as promised in the bill.
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