Indian food security bill is 'victory for the right to food' – Special Rapporteur in New Delhi

[8 July 2013] NEW DELHI – The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter, has welcomed new legislation in India that will form the basis for the largest food subsidy programme in the world.

On Wednesday 3rd July the Indian government approved an ordinance on the Food Security Bill to guarantee the rights of 67% of the population to 5 kg per person per month of subsidized wheat, rice and coarse cereals. The Food Security Bill takes a life-cycle approach, strengthening a range of legal protections for pregnant and lactating women, infants and schoolchildren, and the elderly.

Addressing reporters in New Delhi, the Special Rapporteur said: "It has global significance. I believe it is an important moment for the right to food in India. It can inspire many countries to do the same thing."

"What this bill will do is it will protect as a legal right what otherwise are benefits given away as charity by the government."

Acknowledging the costs to the taxpayer of providing subsidized foodstuffs, the UN expert recalled: "The cost of not treating the hunger is immense and completely underestimated. There is no better investment for the country than to invest in its children."

While in India the Special Rapporteur met the Minister of Food, Consumer Affairs and Public Distribution, KV Thomas, as well as the Commissioners of the Supreme Court of India and researchers from the Center for Equity Studies. He also held meetings with the Indian right to food campaign and other civil society groups.