Nov 22, 2014

Linking Initiatives for Food and Security

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The food insecurity and nutritional deficits have been discussed and debated regularly in various fora. Many direct initiatives have also been taken, which includes practical demonstrable work at the grass root as well as intensive advocacy at the macro level. There is progress, however, every slight improvement sharply pointed towards what more need to be done. There is also fear that the forces which captures the avenues for food security for their vested gains will come back with a bang. Amidst of this engaging dimensions, it has always been asked is there a need to be more strategic, more exchange of energies with each other and strengthening of processes going on for a definite dent on food insecurity. There are various fora, campaigns, groups, activists, intellectuals, thinkers, likeminded people, empathetic people from the government which are engaged on these issues, and one this in asked whether there is a need to be more strategic. Keeping this in mind a Regional Consultation was organised in Patna on 21 August 2012 at the A.N. Sinha Institute of Social Science (ANSISS), Gandhi Maidan, Patna.

The objective of the consultation was to bring together Advisors to the Right to Food Commissioners of Supreme Court of 5 Eastern States – Bihar Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Orissa, W. Bengal and the activists and concerned people working on issues of right to food to discuss and debate and come up with some coordinated actions in the eastern states of the country to improve food and nutritional security. 

The day started with a brief introduction of the consultation by Rupesh from Bihar. Recognizing the importance of this kind of regional initiatives, Rupesh said against the continuous onslaught of anti-people initiatives there is a need to be more strategic to counter those moves. Welcoming the participants to the ANSISS campus Sri D. M. Divakar, Director of the institute, extended the institution’s full support in this process. He outlined that there is a need of sincere and coordinated efforts to improve food and nutritional security of the vulnerable of the society. Pravind from Oxfam India, Patna marking the consultation as one of the important steps in the process of taking forward the struggle for food security, told about Oxfam India’s initiatives on food security for the vulnerable of the society. He said that it is a multi dimensional issue, and we need to take very strategic approach to work on this. He expressed that we have to work towards stopping the mis-directing of resources. He also mentioned about Oxfam’s global campaign on food justice ‘GROW’.

After the welcome and introduction the pre lunch session started. The session was chaired by Biraj Pattnaik, Principal Advisor to the Right to Food Commissioners of Supreme Court, also representing the Right to Food Campaign, Delhi. Initiating the discussion Biraj first reiterated the demands of the right to food campaign, how the campaign demands have been evolved. Speaking about the journey of the Food Security Bill and how it has drifted far away from aspirations of the people, Biraj termed it unfortunate that the bill for food security would actually be a process for food insecurity. He stressed the fact that there is a need of efforts from all concerned to withhold this kind of legislations, which do not include peoples’ aspiration. He also told that many of the states where the schemes/programmes on food security are functioning well have opposed the present food security bill.

He also highlighted the ill effects of the cash transfer, and urged that there is a need to articulately counter these kinds of moves. After Biraj’s opening remarks the advisors from the five states presented the initiatives from their states, which includes policy level initiatives, community mobilization, networking and sustained advocacy with local administration of the respective states. They also highlighted the fact that the advisors have only been able to do advocacy and present the findings and initiatives to the Supreme Court, because of the clear linkage and regular support from the respective civil society. After the presentation by the advisors the house was thrown open to discuss on social security scheme – Public Distribution System (PDS), Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS), Mid Day Meal (MDM), MNREGS and other social security schemes. The participants talked about the various lapses in the implementation of these schemes. They also shared about the efforts they are taking to improve the implementation of these schemes. One of the initiatives which was discussed in details was the community based monitoring. It was stressed that the community be sensitized and empowered to monitor the schemes by themselves. That monitoring should be linked to larger advocacy process, which would make the change sustainable.

After the lunch the house started with an introduction of Oxfam India’s campaign on food justice ‘GROW’ by Biraj Swain, Manager - Campaigns. Before introducing the campaign, Biraj congratulated the house for a very constructive discussion on various dimensions of food security. She also felt that it was very good to see that there are many organisations, which many not be directly working of food security but are present here and are linking themselves, exchanging their energies. Introducing the food justice work and the GROW campaign; she said this is a campaign which aims to address food security in a resource constrained world. It is ironical that amidst of global growth and success, the world is becoming more hungry and malnourished. She highlighted that it is a multi faceted campaign, which focuses on NRM to Social Security Schemes to global issues of food politics etc.

After Biraj’s presentation the house discussed about strategy and planning to take forward the campaign and initiatives in an intensive manner. It was outlined that there is a need of making an articulated stand and approach towards food security within which towards each and every schemes of social security. It was decided to hold a regional consultation on nutrition and food security to evolve a programme plan which would be taken up at the respective states. It was stressed that we should evolve a strong advocacy at the eastern states level. There are various issues which are specific to the eastern states and these should be brought in to the focus of regional advocacy and also the national advocacy.

The consultation ended with a note of thanks and a resolve to further intensify the advocacy for a more food secure society.

Story credit: Prakash Gardia

Photo credit: Bipin Kumar

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