Friday, 18 July 2014

Vouchers for poor? UN in talks with govt on zero-hunger goal

Lack Of Nourishment, Hygiene Threaten An Entire Generation
World Food Programme (WFP) executive director Ertharin Cousin said she was in talks with the Indian government and states to explore food vouchers for the poor facing starvation and malnourishment in the country .Cousin said vouchers were important in taking food to those facing shortage. “We are talking to India on how food vouchers can be used to make food available to vulnerable groups,“ she told TOI on the sidelines of the B-20 Australia Summit that has brought big business together in a lead-up event ahead of the November’s G-20 Summit.
The comment from the head of the world body adds another dimension to the Right to Food law that awaits implementation. RTF was passed by Parliament in UPA-2 and is likely to be rolled out soon by the Narendra Modi government. Subsidized food versus vouchers is a debate that was thought to have been settled with the food guarantee Act, a polarizing issue among civil society.
Cousin refused to be drawn into an either-or situation but stuck to vouchers by arguing that different modalities could be employed in the course of achieving food security, with
zero-hunger being one of the key Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).She said the world faces problems of food shortage and also of food being available but being out of reach of certain weak communities. “In certain places and with certain communities, the vouchers, we believe, can be the right idea and can serve the purpose of helping the vulnerable groups,“ she said. She has been invited to the global business gathering for talks on how food security converges with business growth.
Referring to the stress on food security in India, she said the country was an example for the world. “We have a lot to learn from India that recognizes that economic growth is not being felt across all social groups,” she said.
Addressing reporters at the B-20 Summit, she said economic growth did not automatically guarantee the end of hunger and top economies like the US had “safety nets” and programmes to buffer vulnerable groups.
She told reporters that China had benefitted the most from WFP efforts while India, despite massive economic development, had the largest number of children facing malnourishment. Cousin said no government or organization alone could achieve zero-hunger and there was need for help from private sector, which has to go beyond providing money for technological capabilities.

FOOD THAT DIDN'T REACH THE PLATEThe Targeted Public Distribution System launched in 1997 seeks to provide highly subsidized grain to the really poor. The system is operated jointly by the Centre and states. The Centre, through FCI, procures, stores and transports grain.
States are responsible for identifying eligible families, issuing ration cards and functioning of fair price shops. About 652 lakh below poverty line families are entitled to subsidized grain. These apart, it is estimated that about 5% of people in India sleep without two square meals a day. These 2.4 crore people, the poorest of the poor, and households headed by widows, terminally ill or disabled persons and persons aged 60 years or more with no assured means of subsistence or societal support are covered under the Antyodaya Anna Yojana (AAY). Data shows in 2013-14, the grain lost in transit, storage and so on could have been enough for the monthly PDS ration of 17% of BPL families or 45% of those under AAY

Source:::: The Times of India, 18.07.2-14, p.10,

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