The right to adequate food is realized when every man, woman and child, alone or in community with others, has physical and economic access at all times to adequate food or means for its procurement.
UNICEF estimates that in the year 2000, about 2,420,000 children in India died before their fifth birthdays. This was the highest total for any country. Thus, more than a fifth of the child mortality worldwide occurs in India alone.
It’s very well said by Mr. “Jean Ziegler“
“In a world overflowing with riches, it is an outrageous scandal that more than 1 billion people suffer from hunger and malnutrition and that every year over 6 million children die of starvation and related causes. We must take urgent action now.”
Truly we must take action now. There are millions in India who are dying either due to hunger or malnutrition and this problem is increasing day by day due to price rise and increasing poverty in our country.
Although the government has taken many steps to ensure the welfare of people but there is no mechanism to properly enforce these steps. The best example is the mid-day meal which was introduced by the government to protect the children from malnutrition and hunger but in many places there have been many cases that children suffered from food poisoning etc. and also that the quality of food provided is very low. All this is because there is a very high rate of corruption in India and the funds affirmed by the government for these purposes are diverted by the officials for their own benefit.
The rising and the first case of right to food is the Kishen Pattnayak v State of Orrisa(1). In this case the letter by the social worker was considered as the petition by the supreme court. It was mentioned in the petition that the people of kalahandi and district of Orrisa are so poor that in order to survive and to get food they are forced to sell off their land and they are even selling their children. It was mentioned that there are many people dying due to hunger there.
The court made enquiries and found that the government has taken measures to tackle this problem but the court also ordered various further relief measure like formation of committees and holding of meetings in every 2 months etc.
The most latest case dealing with this problem is the P.U.C.L v Union of India(2). On April 16, 2001, the PUCL submitted a “writ petition” to the Supreme Court of India asking three major questions:
1. Starvation deaths have become a National Phenomenon while there is a surplus stock of food grains in government go downs. Does the right to life mean that people who are starving and who are too poor to buy food grains free of cost by the State from the surplus stock lying with the State particularly when it is lying unused and rotting?
2. Does not the right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution of India include the right to food?
3. Does not the right to food which has been upheld by the apex Court imply that the State has a duty to provide food especially in situations of drought to people who are drought effected and are not in a position to purchase food.
The court said that what is of utmost importance is to see that food is provided to the aged, infirm, disabled, destitute women, destitute men who are in danger of starvation, pregnant and lactating women and destitute children, especially in cases where they or members of
their family do not have sufficient funds to provide food for them. as in this case Plenty of food is available, but distribution of the same amongst the very poor and the destitute is scarce and non-existent leading to mal-nourishment, starvation and other related problems. So, on September 3, 2001, the court directed that 16 states and union territories that had not identified families below the poverty line must do so within two weeks, so that those families could be provided with food assistance. Further, the court required that “the Food for Work Programme in the scarcity areas should also be implemented by the various States to the extent possible”.
Thus it has been established by this case that the right to food comes under the article 21 of the constitution i.e right to life and personal liberty.
Right to food in India
As a party to the “International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights “and the “Convention on the Rights of the Child“, India has committed itself to honoring the right to adequate food. A National Plan of Action on Children has been adopted under which goals were also fixed for the decade 1990-2000. The Plan sought to cover the programmes in the areas of Child and Maternal Health, Nutrition, Water and Sanitation, Education, Children in difficult circumstances and adolescent girls.
A number of child care programmes for improving the nutritional status of children are being implemented. Integrated Child Development Service (ICDS) Programme is a major intervention for providing a package of services including supplementary nutrition to 1.63 crores children under 6 years of age. Nutrition supplementation is also being provided to children under the scheme of crèches (3 lacks children) and Balwadi Nutrition (2.29 lacks children).
Although, the right to food has been interpreted by the supreme court within the ambit of article 21 in the case of PUCL V UOI but still there is no specific provision or law made on this…but according to article 47 of the constitution it is the duty of the state to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living and to improve the public health but this article comes under the directive principles of state policy and thus are non-justiciable. So, proper law should be made for the betterment of the society by the legislature to accomplish this goal..
1) (1989) AIR 677; 1989 SCR (1)57
2) 2000(5) SC ALE (30)
Student, Amity University
[Submitted as an entry for the mightylaws.in Blog Post Writing Competition, 2011]