Human Rights and Food Security
“There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.” Mahatma Gandhi Human rights are commonly understood as “inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being.Human rights are thus conceived as universal (applicable everywhere) and egalitarian (the same for everyone).
These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national and international law. The doctrine of human rights in international practice, within international law, global and regional institutions, in the policies of states and in the activities of non-governmental organizations, has been a cornerstone of public policy around the world.
Many of the basic ideas that animated the human rights movement developed in the aftermath of the Second World War and the atrocities of The Holocaust, culminating in the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Paris by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948. The ancient world did not possess the concept of universal human rights. Ancient societies had “elaborate systems of duties… conceptions of justice, political legitimacy, and human flourishing that sought to realize human dignity, flourishing, or well-being entirely independent of human rights”.
The modern concept of human rights developed during the early Modern period, alongside the European secularization of Judeo-Christian ethics. The true forerunner of human rights discourse was the concept of natural rights which appeared as part of the medieval Natural law tradition that became prominent during the Enlightenment with such philosophers as John Locke, Francis Hutcheson, and Jean-Jacques Burlamaqui, and featured prominently in the political discourse of the American Revolution and the French Revolution.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948, partly in response to the atrocities of World War II. Although the UDHR was a non-binding resolution, it is now considered by some to have acquired the force of international customary law which may be invoked in appropriate circumstances by national and other judiciaries. The UDHR urges member nations to promote a number of human, civil, economic and social rights, asserting these rights as part of the “foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world. The declaration was the first international legal effort to limit the behaviour of states and press upon them duties to their citizens following the model of the rights-duty duality. The right to food, and its variations, is a human right protecting the right for people to feed themselves in dignity, implying that sufficient food is available, that people have the means to access it, and that it adequately meets the individual’s dietary needs. The right to food protects the right of all human beings to be free from hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition.
The right to food does not imply that governments have an obligation to hand out free food to everyone who wants it, or a right to be fed. However, if people are deprived of access to food for reasons beyond their control, for example, because they are in detention, in times of war or after natural disasters, the right requires the government to provide food directly. Right to Food and right to be free from hunger are the human rights which are protected under various international human rights and humanitarian laws.
Right to food is explicitly mentioned in the Article 25(1) of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights 1948; and the Article 11 of International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966. It is also recognised in the Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989 and the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Right to food of indigeneous people is implicit in the ILO Convention No-169 which is approved by 17 countries. Approximately 20 countries in the world have incorporated the Right to Food for their people. THE CONCEPT OF FOOD SECURITY
World Development Report (1986) defined food security as “access by all people at all times to enough food for an active, healthy life. According to Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the UNO, “Food security exists when all people at all times have access to sufficient and nutritious food to meet the dietary needs and food preference for an active and healthy life. ” Staatz (1990) defined food security as “The ability to assure, on a long term basis, that the food system provides the total population access to a timely, reliable and nutritionally adequate supply of food. Thus food security may be of short-term or sustainable. In case of short-term food security we consider food security of the present population only. But in case of sustainable food security we consider the food security not only of the present generation but also of the future generation as well. According to Swaminathan, “Sustainable food security means enough food for everyone at present plus the ability to provide enough food in future as well. ” In the long-run sustainable food security is very important. ELEMENTS OF FOOD SECURITY Food security is a state of being.
Like literacy or good health, food security is a state that everyone wants to enjoy. Governments have decreed that every person has an inalienable right to food. The fundamental purpose of economic activity is to ensure adequate access to food for oneself and one’s family. The primacy of food security as an objective for human activity is reflected in the frequency with which the term “food security” appears in UN declarations and NGO advocacy efforts. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) Agreement on Agriculture acknowledges the legitimacy of food security concerns.
South Africa, Brazil and Norway have all enshrined the right to food in law. There are basically three principle elements of Food Security. These are: Supply: Global food production has by and large kept up with or exceeded demand over the past century. The application of new technologies to agriculture, including mechanized vehicles to till, plant and harvest crops; improved seed and breeding stock; and the use of herbicides, pesticides and inorganic fertilizers, has vastly increased productivity.
At the same time , one third or more of agricultural land used to be dedicated to growing fuel (wood to burn) or feed for the animals that provide muscle for transportation and production (hay for horses and oxen). Much of that land is now available to grow food for humans instead, adding to the total overall supply. Distribution: Distribution depends on such things as markets, transportation, infrastructure, relative purchasing power and the source and nature of the supply.
Where the food is traded commercially , the volume and type of food traded is related to purchasing power and the ease with which the trader can reach a market. Access: Food security is about individuals , families and communities, not about regional and national aggregates. That is why, supply is only one piece of the food security puzzle. Only rarely does a whole country face hunger or famine. Rather, when the food supply is insufficient, those with greater purchasing power get food while those without sufficient income or entitlement go hungry.
CONSTITUTIONAL PROVISIONS FOR ENSURING FOOD SECURITY In India there is a deeply rooted tradition of respect for food – it stresses the importance of growing and sharing food. Sharing or offering food is a universal tradition shared by all religious entities that have roots in the Indian soil. Accordingly, in 1950, India adopted a very progressive Constitution aimed at ensuring all its citizens social, economic and political justice, equality, and dignity. Therefore any law to be valid in Indian Territory must be within the constitutional framework.
Like in many countries of the World the “The Right to Food” in Indian Constitution is not recognized as a “Fundamental Right”. Therefore, there is no constitutional mandate to have a claim over it. Regarding right to food, one has to look for relevance in Article 21 of the Constitution, entitled “Protection of life and personal liberty” and Article 47 “Duty of the state to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living […]” as well as in judicial interventions of the Supreme Court and various Acts, which have cumulatively strengthened the right to food in India.
Knowing the constitutional and legislative framework in India regarding the right to food is crucial for identifying right to food violations and supporting victims in realizing their right to food. Indian Constitution Part III, Article 21 “Protection of life and personal liberty – No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except to procedure established by law. ” The phrases “Protection of life” and “personal liberty” have called several times for interpretation. A series of judicial interventions and interpretations have deepened the normative content of this fundamental right.
Indian Constitution Part IV: Directive Principles The right to food or in general the economic, social, and cultural rights are defined in Part IV of the Constitution as Directive Principles of State Policy, which are guidelines to the central and State Governments for framing laws and policies. The provisions are not enforceable by any court, but the principles laid down therein are considered as fundamental in the Governance of the country. There are several Articles under the Directive Principles offer remote relevance for the right to food, but the clearest statement regarding the right to food is provided by Article 47.
Article 47: Duty of the State to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living and to improve public health. The State shall regard the raising of the level of nutrition and the standard of living of its people and the improvement of public health as among its primary duties and, in particular, the State shall endeavor to bring about prohibition of the consumption except for medicinal purposes of intoxicating drinks and of drugs, which are injurious to health.
Putting together Article 21 and 47 and various interpretations of the Supreme Court of one can safely say that the Government of India has a constitutional obligation to take appropriate measures to ensure a dignified life with adequate food for all citizens. The right to food can be regarded as a fundamental right by virtue of interpretation. NATIONAL MEASURES TO ENSURE FOOD SECURITY There has been a continous appeal to the Government for passing a legislation on food security.
The government is likely to accept most of the recommendations of Sonia Gandhi-led National Advisory Council (NAC) on the proposed food security law despite warnings that the suggestions would add to subsidy burden, increase dependence on imports and distort the country’s food economy. The food ministry has set out plans that are in line with the NAC’s proposal to widen the scope of the legislation, which seeks to provide legal guarantee of subsidised grains to the poor.
Several experts have warned that the NAC recommendations would force the government to substantially raise its grain procurement, which in turn would lead to a larger subsidy burden on its already stretched finances. The council had proposed legal subsidised food entitlements for at least 72% of the country’s population in Phase-I by 2011-12. The NAC had also proposed legal subsidised food entitlements for 75% of the country’s population, covering the ‘priority’ (below the poverty line) and ‘general’ (above the poverty line) households, in Phase-II by 2013-14. National Food Security Bill, 2011
The government has introduced the much anticipated National Food Security Bill — a legislation aimed at shoring up the UPA’s support base — in Parliament. The “landmark social legislation” will guarantee grain at extremely cheap rates to more than half of the population. Food minister KV Thomas, who introduced the bill in the Lok Sabha amid thumping of desks by Congress members led by party president Sonia Gandhi, said that it would ensure that all Indians “live a life with dignity”. The bill marks a shift in approach to the problem of food security — from the current welfare paradigm to a rights-based approach.
The proposed legislation confers eligible beneficiaries the legal right to receive grain at highly subsidised prices. The National Food Security Bill, 2011, considered to be the world’s largest experiment in ensuring food security to poor, has been a key project of Congress president Sonia Gandhi. The bill brings under its purview 63. 5% of the country’s population —75% of rural households and 50% of urban households. The bill classifies all entitled households as “general” and “priority”. At least 46% of rural households and 28% of urban households would be designated as “priority”.
Every person belonging to a “priority household” will be provided with 7kg of grain per month, comprising rice, wheat and coarse grain. Rice will be provided at Rs 3, wheat at Rs 2 and coarse grain at Rs 1 per kg. Others belonging to the “general category” would be entitled to not less than 3kg of grain per month at a rate not exceeding 50% of the minimum support price. Once passed, the food subsidy bill is expected to rise to Rs 95,000 crore. Initial estimates pegged the increase in subsidy at nearly Rs 28,000 crore.
However, on Thursday, the government made a downward revision of the additional burden on the central government — between R 21,000 crore to R 23,000 crore. The bill’s financial memorandum estimates the total annual expenditure on food subsidy under the targeted public distribution system at about Rs 79,800 crore. “The estimate of food subsidy is however dependent, among other things, upon economic cost, central issue of price of grain, number of beneficiaries covered and quantities of grain allocated and lifted, and therefore subject to change with changes in any or all of the variables affecting food subsidy,” the memorandum states.
Experts maintain that the annual increase would be to the tune of Rs 27,500 crore. However, Thomas said “an additional amount of not more than about Rs 20,000-21,000 crore annually would be required by way of subsidy. ” The minister argued since the food bill merges many ongoing programmes meant for women, children and the poor, there would be no additional financial burden. The total financial liability to implement the law is expected to be Rs 3. 5 lakh crore, with funds being required to raise agriculture production, create storage space and publicity.
A sum of roughly Rs 1,11,000 crore would be required to boost farm output with grain requirement increasing, on account of this intervention, from 55 million tonne to 61 million tonne annually. Thomas stressed that “this Rs 1,10,600 crore is not an additional burden. We need to invest in agriculture to boost production anyway”. The proposed law entitles every pregnant woman and lactating mother to meal free of cost during pregnancy and six months after childbirth. Cash benefits of Rs 1,000 per month to meet increased food requirements of pregnant women would be provided for the first six months of pregnancy.
At Rs 1,000 per month and covering 2. 25 crore women, an expenditure of nearly Rs 13,500 crore has been estimated. This will be borne by the central government and the states. Schemes to Ensure Food Security: There are also certain central food schemes and other assistance programmes for the poor in India. These are: * Targeted Public Distribution System; * Antyodaya Anna Yojana; * Mid-day meal scheme; * Annapoorna Yojana; * Integrated Child Development Services; * National family benefit scheme; * National maternity benefit scheme; and National old age pension scheme. The Public Distribution System (PDS) Public Distribution System (PDS) is an Indian food security system. Established by the Government of India under Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food, and Public Distribution and managed jointly with state governments in India, it distributes subsidised food and non-food items to India’s poor. Major commodities distributed include staple food grains, such as wheat, rice, sugar, and kerosene, through a network of Public distribution shops (PDS) established in several states across the country.
Food Corporation of India, a Government-owned corporation, procures, maintain and issue food grains to the state. Distribution of food grains to poor people throughout the country are managed by state governments. As of date there are about 4. 99 lakh Fair Price Shops (FPS) across India. Annapoorna Yojana This scheme was started by the government in 1999-2000 to provide food to senior citizens who cannot take care of themselves and are not under the targeted public distribution system (TPDS), and who have no one to take care of them in their village.
This scheme would provide 10 kg of free food grains a month for the eligible senior citizens. The allocation for this scheme as off 2000-01 was Rs 100 crore. Antyodaya Anna Yojana Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY) is an Indian government sponsored scheme for ten millions of the poorest families. It was launched by NDA government in December 2000. It is on the lookout for the ‘poorest of the poor’ by providing them 35 kilos of rice and wheat at Rs. 2 per kg. Mid-Day Meals Scheme The Midday Meal Scheme is the popular name for school meal programme in India which started in the 1960s.
It involves provision of lunch free of working days. The key objectives of the programme are: protecting children from classroom hunger, increasing school enrollment and attendance, improved socialization among children belonging to all castes, addressing malnutrition, and social empowerment through provision of employment to women. The scheme has a long history, especially in the state of Tamil Nadu. The scheme was introduced statewide by the then Chief Minister K. Kamaraj in the 1960s and later expanded by the M. G. Ramachandran government in 1982.
It has been adopted by most Indian states after a landmark direction by the Supreme Court of India on November 28, 2001. The success of this scheme is illustrated by the tremendous increase in the school participation and completion rates in Tamil Nadu. Status of the Food Schemes in India The framework of the right to food is one of the basic economic and social rights that are essential to achieve the “economic democracy” without which political democracy is , at best, incomplete. The right to food is nowhere being realized in India.
The schemes introduced by the Government are well designed, yet their implementation has been poor. In India, food security exists at the macro level in terms of physical access to food. Economic access is far from satisfactory, both at the micro as well as the macro level. The statement that economic access to food is far from satisfactory is confirmed by the fact that a significant proportion of the society lives in poverty and is malnourished. This section of the society is underprivileged and has less voice. INTERNATIONAL INSTRUMENTS TO ENSURE FOOD SECURITY
The right to food imposes on all States obligations not only towards the persons living on their national territory, but also towards the populations of other States. These two sets of obligations complement one another. The right to food can only be fully realized where both ‘national’ and ‘international’ obligations are complied with. CONSTITUTION OF FAO, 1965 Preamble The Nations accepting this Constitution, being determined to promote the common welfare by furthering separate and collective action on their part for the purpose of: raising levels of nutrition and standards of living… and thus… nsuring humanity’s freedom from hunger. WORLD FOOD SUMMIT PLAN OF ACTION, 1996 Commitment Seven We will implement, monitor and follow-up this Plan of Action at all levels in cooperation with the international community. Objective 7. 4 To clarify the content of the right to adequate food and the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger, as stated in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and other relevant international and regional instruments, and to give particular attention to implementation and full and progressive realization of this right as a means of achieving food security for all.
To this end, governments, in partnership with all actors of civil society, will, as appropriate: a. Make every effort to implement the provisions of Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (the Covenant) and relevant provisions of other international and regional instruments; b. Urge States that are not yet Parties to the Covenant to adhere to the Covenant at the earliest possible time; c. Invite the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to give particular attention to this Plan of Action in the framework of its activities and to continue to monitor the mplementation of the specific measures provided for in Article 11 of the Covenant; d. Invite relevant treaty bodies and appropriate specialized agencies of the UN to consider how they might contribute, within the framework of the coordinated follow-up by the UN system to the major international UN conferences and summits, including the World Conference on Human Rights, Vienna 1993, within the scope of their mandates, to the further implementation of this right; e.
Invite the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, in consultation with relevant treaty bodies, and in collaboration with relevant specialized agencies and programmes of the UN system and appropriate intergovernmental mechanisms, to better define the rights related to food in Article 11 of the Covenant and to propose ways to implement and realize these rights as a means of achieving the commitments and objectives of the World Food Summit, taking into account the possibility of formulating voluntary guidelines for food security for all. UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS, 1948
Article 25 Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and his family, including food… INTERNATIONAL COVENANT ON ECONOMIC, SOCIAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS, 1966 Article 11 1. The States Parties to the present Covenant recognize the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food. · The States Parties will take appropriate steps to ensure the realization of this right, recognizing to this effect the essential importance of international cooperation based on free consent. 2.
The States Parties to the present Covenant, recognizing the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger, shall take, individually and through international cooperation, the measures, including specific programmes, which are needed: a. To improve methods of production, conservation and distribution of food by making full use of technical and scientific knowledge, by disseminating knowledge of the principles of nutrition and by developing or reforming agrarian systems in such a way as to achieve the most efficient development and utilization of natural resources; b.
Taking into account the problems of both food-importing and food-exporting countries, to ensure an equitable distribution of world food supplies in relation to need. Article 2 1. Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to take steps, individually and through international assistance and cooperation, especially economic and technical, to the maximum of its available resources, with a view to achieving progressively the full realization of the rights recognized in the present Covenant by all appropriate means, including particularly the adoption of legislative measures.
UNITED NATIONS CONVENTION ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD, 1989 Article 24 1. States Parties recognize the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and to facilities for the treatment of illness and rehabilitation of health. States Parties shall strive to ensure that no child is deprived of his or her right of access to health care services. 2. States Parties shall pursue full implementation of this right and, in particular, shall take appropriate measures: c. o combat disease and malnutrition, including within the framework of primary health care, through, inter alia, the application of readily available technology and through the provision of adequate nutritious foods. d. to ensure that all segments of society, in particular parents and children, are informed, have access to education and are supported in the use of basic knowledge of child health and nutrition. Article 27 States Parties, in accordance with national conditions and within their means… shall in case of need provide material assistance and support programmes, particularly with regard to nutrition.
Apart from these the Right to Food has also been recognized in many specific international instruments as varied as the 1948 Genocide Convention (Article 2), the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees (Articles 20 and 23), the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child (Articles 24(2)(c) and 27(3)), the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (Articles 12(2)), or the 2007Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (Articles 25(f) and 28(1)). JUDICIAL INTERPRETATIONS 1.
KISHEN PATTNAYAK VS. STATE OF ORISSA, In this petition, the petitioner wrote a letter to the Supreme Court bringing to the court’s notice the extreme poverty of the people of Kalahandi in Orissa where hundreds were dying due to starvation and where several people were forced to sell their children. The letter prayed that the State Government should be directed to take immediate steps in order to ameliorate this miserable condition of the people of Kalahandi. This was the first case specifically taking up the issue of starvation and lack of food.
In this judgement, the Supreme Court took a very pro-government approach and gave directions to take macro level measures to address the starvation problem such as implementing irrigation projects in the state so as to reduce the drought in the region, measures to ensure fair selling price of paddy and appointing of a Natural Calamities Committee. None of these measures actually directly affected the immediate needs of the petitioner, i. e. to prevent people from dying of hunger. More importantly, the Supreme Court did not recognise the specific Right to Food within this context of starvation. . PUCL VS. UNION OF INDIA, This is a landmark case relating to Right to Food and food security. This case, technically known as “PUCL vs Union of India and others (Writ Petition [Civil] No. 196 of 2001)”, is handled by an advisory group consisting of a few members from the People’s Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), Human Rights Law Network (HRLN), former support group of the RIght to Food Campaign and other active individuals in the campaign. Supreme Court hearings have been held at regular intervals since April 2001, and the case has attracted wide national and international attention.
Although the judgment is still awaited, significant “interim orders” have been passed from time to time. For instance, the Supreme Court has passed orders directing the Indian government to: (1) introduce cooked mid-day meals in all primary schools, (2) provide 35 kgs of grain per month at highly subsidized prices to 15 million destitute households under the Antyodaya component of the PDS, (3) double resource allocations for Sampoorna Grameen Rozgar Yojana (India’s largest rural employment programme at that time, now superseded by the Employment Guarantee Act), and (4) universalize the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS). . CHAMELI SINGH VS. STATE OF U. P. , In this case, it was held that right to life guaranteed in any civilized society implies the right to food, water, decent environment, education, medical care and shelter. The method in which the constitutional social rights or the DPSP have been enforced or made justifiable by the Supreme Court has been through an expansion of the existing fundamental rights, particularly the Right to Life guaranteed in Article 21. CONCLUSION Starvation deaths and high prevalence of hunger clearly show that India needs to wake up.
The judiciary cannot monitor the implementation of the schemes forever. The government needs to review policy from time to time and take corrective measures for effective implementation of different schemes and programmes, establish effective mechanisms of accountability and ensure the right to food for all. As the problem of food insecurity relates to both the demand and supply of food, a solution could be to empower people towards greater purchasing power, as well as addressing the inadequacy of the distribution system, and checking corruption and leakages.
Awareness among the people with regard to their right to food can escalate the process of equitable distribution and thus help to realize the right to food for all citizens. The right to food is not just a basic human right, it is also a basic human need. It essentially requires the state to ensure that at least people do not starve. Implementation of the right to food does not imply that impossible efforts be undertaken by the states. The obligation to protect and respect the people compels the state to implement the right to food effectively, without recourse to extensive financial means. ——————————————– 2 ]. Food Crisis and Sustainable Food Security in India by Jaydeb Sarkhel [ 3 ]. Right to Food- Reforms and Approaches, 2007, The Icfai University Press, pp5-6 [ 4 ]. Dev, S. M, and R Evenson (2003) ‘Rural Development in India:Rural, Non-farm and mitigation’ SCID Working Paper No. 187. [ 5 ]. See available at http://socialissuesindia. wordpress. com/2010/08/05/human-rights-to-food-in-indian-constitution/ [ 6 ]. See available at http://articles. economictimes. indiatimes. com/2011-05-23/news/29574365_1_nac-recommendations-food-security-law-food-entitlements [ 7 ]. See available at http://articles. economictimes. ndiatimes. com/2011-12-23/news/30550903_1_food-subsidy-national-food-security-bill-grain [ 8 ]. Right to Food- Reforms and Approaches, 2007, The Icfai University Press, p. 230 [ 9 ]. As amended in 1965. [ 10 ]. Adopted by the World Food Summit, Rome, 13 to 17 November 1996. FAO. 1997. Report of the World Food Summit, Part One. Rome [ 11 ]. Adopted by the General Assembly on 10 December 1948. UN doc. A/811. [ 12 ]. General Assembly Resolution 2200 A (XXI), Annex, of 16 December 1966. [ 13 ]. General Assembly Resolution 44/25, Annex, of 20 November 1989. [ 14 ]. AIR 1989 SC 677. [ 15 ]. 2001. [ 16 ]. (1996) 2 SCC 549.