Right to Food



Right to Food: An Inquiry


The awareness that the right to food is one of the most critical rights to be claimed in a post-colonial democracy such as India is one of the gains of the rights movement. Food riots particularly in the recent wake of globalisation, structural reforms, rising inflation and food prices, occurred in many parts of the globe, including Asia. Food riots or demonstrations have taken place in the Philippines, Bangladesh, Thailand, India, Egypt, Haiti and several other countries in the last five years. The right to food has close links with entitlement patterns in society and their gendered nature, the disabling effects of persistent hunger, presence or absence of employment guarantee scheme, integrated child development services, mid-day meal schemes for children, public distribution system, land rights, starvation deaths, coercive displacement, forest rights, and social exclusion.


In India, with all these factors present, the right to food has become in recent times one of the most talked about rights. It is an issue in which court, researchers, journalists, field surveyors, campaigners, jurists, civil rights activists, and the administration – all have got involved. Coalitions have emerged around the demand of the right to food. The National Human Rights Commission has also been aware of the significance of this right, which is now seen as the derivative of the constitutionally guaranteed right to life (Article 21 of the Indian Constitution). Social audits (mainly in the form of public hearing) are new held over the issue, which tell us as to how far this right is a reality in India.


Yet, hunger persists. There are starvation deaths, recurrent suicides of farmers, widespread joblessness, and roving bands of destitute labourers, whose situation is aggravated with disasters like regular floods and droughts. Clearly fruits of development do not reach all. But what is more significant is the fact that economic development at certain places at times creates new pockets of poverty and hunger, newer disabilities, and new vulnerabilities. If some people escape the trap of below poverty level existence, some enter the trap, which is, going down below the poverty level. It can be seen further that the Union budget 2008-09 has allocated only Rs. 5 crore for the social security protection to the unorganized and informal sector workers who number around 423 million today.


Click here for the details of the first consultation meeting  


The first consultation meeting on Right to Food took place on 26.08.2008 at the CRG Seminar Room. Food Right activists, theoreticians, field workers, school teachers associated with the ICDS and mid day meal programmes, the CRG staff members attended the meeting presided over by Dr. Ranabir Samaddar.


This research initiative is taking place in collaboration with The Asia Pacific Forum of National Human Rights Institutions.


For further details of the first consultation meeting, please contact geetisha@mcrg.ac.in


Right to Food: Update


CRG’s research on the Right to Food started in the second half of 2008. The research was conceptualized primarily keeping in mind a few concerns: the research would focus on the rights perspective of the food security paradigm, considering the fact that basic research on availability of food is already being carried out by several researchers all over India. CRG’s research began with accepting the fact that food scarcity exists in this country, and exists to the point of causing starvation death in pockets. Taking a step further from present and ongoing body of research and reporting, the project therefore seeks to grasp the nature of right to food – how the agenda food entitlement shapes on the basis of contention and negotiation of the right between the state, which has to deliver the food, and the subject; who assumes different collective and individual identities at different levels and points of time.


The research is being conducted on five themes: (a) there would be an inquiry looking into the state of the right to food in the tea plantations in Jalpaiguri, North Bengal; (b) a similar inquiry will take stock of the situation in South Bengal, specifically Paschim Midnapore, where starvation and hunger deaths have been repeatedly reported; (c) there will be one paper on the legal development of the Right to Food as a concrete right, (d) the fourth aspect is related to a study of the popular movement in West Bengal in 2007-08 against the unavailability of food in the Public Distribution System which influenced considerably the results of the Panchayat elections that took place soon after the agitation had stopped; and (e) finally, a paper summarizing the current research and body of literature on Right to Food. The first paper has already been published in CRG’s research paper series “Policies and Practices” issue no. 24 under the title “Whither Right to Food: Rights Institutions and Hungry Labour in the Tea Plantations of North Bengal”. The second paper is now being prepared for publication.  Work is on with the remaining papers. A research workshop will be held in August 2009 on the basis of these five studies.