Right To Food Campaign
Chief Secretaries to be held accountable
for starvation deaths
09 Nov 2002
Also see, India's
Poor Starve as Wheat Rots
There has been action on many fronts in recent weeks, and many further
activities are expected during the next few months. Please note that these
"Updates" does not cover all the activities of the Right to
Food campaign. We are doing our best to keep track of what is happening
in different states, and to spread the information; but it is in the nature
of this decentralised campaign that much is happening on the ground without
necessarily coming to our notice. There is a good deal of further information
on the campaign website (http://geocities.com/righttofood). Please consider
helping us to improve the spread of information by sending us details
of any relevant activities in your area.
A new feature called "digest of mails" has been added to the
Updates. This is a means of circulating summaries of miscellaneous mails
received, without bombarding you with messages. For further details, see
item 9 below.
And now for today's
headlines: 1. Latest Supreme Court Hearing (29 October, 2002); 2.
Starvation In Baran: Action Continues; 3. Jharkhand: Forthcoming Events;
4. Uttar Pradesh: Public Rally On Children's Day (14 November); 5. Orissa:
Public Hearing On 28 November; 6. Asia Social Forum (Hyderabad, 2-7 January
2003); 7. Public Hearing On "Living With Hunger" (Delhi, 10
January 2003); 8. Campaign Website Upgraded; 9. Digest Of Mails - A New
Feature; 10. Reminders.
Latest Supreme Court Hearing (29 October, 2002)
The Supreme Court heard the right to food case again on 29 October 2002.
The hearing started with the submission of a report by Dr N. C. Saxena,
who has been appointed as Commissioner by the Supreme Court for the purpose
of monitoring the implementation of recent interim orders. The report
be available shortly at Http://geocities.com/righttofood/comrs/reports/one.html.
A brief account of the 29 October hearing follows below.
(NB: In earlier "Updates", it was stated that Dr. N.C. Saxena
and Mr. S.R. Sankaran had been appointed as Commissioners. Unbeknown to
us, Mr. Sankaran had meanwhile written to the Ministry declining his post.
Thus, as of now there is a single Commissioner, Dr. N.C. Saxena. Apologies
for the confusion.)
The report of the Commissioner included a list of recent media reports
of starvation deaths. When this was read out, the Attorney General Mr.
Soli Sorabjee argued that the reports were not reliable and drew the attention
of the bench to a recent article published in India Today (Nov 4th Issue),
which claims to "debunk" some recent media reports of starvation
deaths in Orissa. To this the bench replied that we should have some means
of verifying the claims, and that the 'assistants to the Commissioners'
(to be appointed in each state) might be able to help in this respect.
The following order was issued: "It is the duty of each States/Union
Territories to prevent deaths due to starvation or malnutrition. If the
Commissioner reports and it is established to the satisfaction of the
Court that starvation death has taken place, the Court may be justified
in presuming that its orders have not been implemented and the Chief Secretaries/Administrators
of the States/ Union Territories may be held responsible for the same."
Expanding food for work
Pointing out that grave hunger continued despite Supreme Court orders,
Mr. Colin Gonsalvez (counsel to the petitioner) argued for a major expansion
of the current Food For Work programme. This would require the centre
to raise the allocation of free grain to the states to 20 million tones,
and the cash component to Rs 10,000 crores (as recommended by the Abhijit
Sen committee). The Attorney General Mr. Soli Sorabjee questioned the
need for an increase in allocation for the state governments when the
States were not lifting the existing quotas. This led to an extended and
rather confusing discussion, at the end of which the bench decided to
wait for a report form the Commissioner before taking a decision.
Advisors to the commissioners
Colin Gonsalves mentioned that many states have not responded to the information
that we had requested for. The bench suggested that if information was
a problem, it could ask the state governments to appoint officers as assistants
to the Commissioner in each state. The bench then ordered each state to
appoint an assistant to the Commissioner, who would both supply relevant
information to the Commissioner and liaise with the nodal officers appointed
by each state. (NB: Each state is already supposed to have appointed a
"nodal officer" to liaise with the Commissioner.)
Further court directions
In further directions, the Supreme Court gave the state governments one
last chance to translate its orders and publicize them, where this has
not happened. The full text of 29 October order is available on the campaign
website (see http://geocities.com/righttofood/orders/oct29.html).
2. Starvation In Baran: Action Continues
The state of Rajasthan recently came under intense scrutiny, following
reports of a wave of starvation deaths in Baran. PUCL (Rajasthan) and
other organisations mounted pressure on the government and presented the
Chief Minister a memorandum of actions to be taken. The government took
up most of the recommendations and posted many senior officers in the
district to oversee the operations. It has also raised the "labour
ceiling" on relief works both for that area and for other places
in Rajasthan (from 7 lakhs person-days this month to 9 lakhs).
The letter to the Chief Minister along with the PUCL report is available
3. Jharkhand: Forthcoming Events
In Jharkhand, Gram Swaraj Abhiyan is planning a series of activities in
November and December, culminating in a large rally in Ranchi on 22 December.
On 15 November, local padyatras will begin in five different locations:
Santal Parganas, Garhwa, Nimdi, Ranchi and Koderma. The padyatras will
focus on several related themes: (1) gram swaraj; (2) the right to food;
(3) peace and harmony; and (4) transparent and accountable governance.
An important part of the background of these padyatras is the prospect
of panchayat elections in Jharkhand in early 2003. Panchayat elections
have not been held in Jharkhand for several decades.
From 10 December onwards, the padyatras will converge towards Ranchi,
reaching there on 19 December. This will be followed by two days of seminars
and discussions on the above themes, on 20-21 December in Ranchi. On 22
December, a public rally will take place in Ranchi, ending with a "gram
For further information, please contact Balram at
firstname.lastname@example.org or Byomkesh at email@example.com
4. Uttar Pradesh: Public Rally On Children's
Day (14 November)
In Uttar Pradesh, plans are afoot for a public rally on Children's Day
(14 November), to demand the immediate introduction of cooked mid- day
meals in all primary schools. Thousands of parents and children are expected
from different parts of the state. Several teachers' organisations have
also agreed to support the rally - a significant development in view of
the ambivalent position of teachers' organisations on mid-day meals in
many states. The participants are hoping to meet Chief Minister Mayawati
and remind her about the Supreme Court order on mid-day meals. If all
goes well, the rally on 14 November will be followed by a 24 hour dharna
outside the State Assembly.
The rally will begin at 10 am at Char Bagh, near the railway station.
All are welcome. For further information, please
contact Awaz at firstname.lastname@example.org (Tel.: 0522-715 500).
5. Orissa: Public Hearing On 28 November
A major public hearing will be taking place in Bhubaneswar on 28 November,
to mark the anniversary of the 28 November 2001 order of the Supreme Court
(available at http://geocities.com/righttofood/orders/interimorders.html).
This initiative is coordinated by CLAP (Committee
for Legal Aid to Poor), contactable at email@example.com. Further
details will be posted soon.
6. Asia Social Forum (Hyderabad, 2-7 January 2003)
As most of our readers would know, the first Asia Social Forum will be
taking place on 2-7 January 2003 in Hyderabad (for details about the event,
you can look at www.wsfindia.org. This event is an offshoot of the "World
Social Forum" process, which began in Porto Allegre (Brazil). A wide
range of activist organisations from all over India are expected to take
part in this crucial gathering.
As part of this forum, the "support group" of the Right to Food
Campaign is planning to host a seminar and a sharing workshop. The seminar
will be an opportunity for exchange and dialogue between various groups
that have been working on the right to food, and/or on the right to work.
Information about the Supreme Court hearing and the Right to Food Campaign
will be shared and discussed at the seminar. You are cordially invited
to join the seminar, and to send any suggestions you may have regarding
the format and content of the discussions (suggestions
and comments may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org). We will keep
you posted on the events.
The sharing workshop, just after the seminar, will focus specifically
on the Supreme Court hearing. It will be an opportunity for interested
participants to learn more about the details of this public interest litigation,
and to contribute any suggestions they may have.
7. Public Hearing On "Living With Hunger"
(Delhi, 10 January 2003)
As mentioned in an earlier announcement (sent last week), a major public
hearing on hunger and starvation will be taking place in Delhi on 10 January,
2003. The overarching theme is "living with hunger". As you
know, there have been widespread reports of extreme hunger and even "starvation
deaths" in different parts of India during the last few months. Aside
from these dramatic events, hunger and under-nutrition quietly haunt the
lives of millions of women, men and children on a day-to-day basis. Aside
from being intolerable in its own right, this situation reflects gross
violations of recent Supreme Court directives on the right to food.
A wake-up call is badly needed. State authorities need to be held accountable
to this situation, and the conscience of the nation also needs to be stirred.
With this in mind, the support group of the Right to Food campaign is
planning to convene a public hearing on hunger and starvation in New Delhi
on 10 January 2003.
Economist Amartya Sen, writer Mahashweta Devi and nutritionist Shanti
Gosh have agreed to participate. Our thanks to all those who have already
responded to the call for participating in this public hearing. If you
missed the earlier announcement, you can catch up with the details in
If you are planning to participate in the Asia Social Forum in Hyderabad
on 2-7 January (see above), you may wish to book your tickets back home
through Delhi in order to participate in the public hearing. In any case,
early travel arrangements are advisable.
A follow-up meeting will be held on 11 January, to discuss future activities
of the Right to Food Campaign. This is an important event, as the campaign
may need to be stepped up in view of the drought conditions in many states.
It has also been suggested that this opportunity could be used for various
advocacy activities on 11 January itself, such as sending delegations
to the Prime Minister, President, opposition leaders, etc. Further suggestions
Campaign Website Upgraded
The campaign website (http://geocities.com/righttofood)
has been reorganised and expanded. Please remember to take a look from
to time, and also to spread the news about this website. It is a crucial
means of communication for the campaign.
The website includes a new section called "Events". Please consider
sending us information on any relevant activities in your area, we will
post it in this section. The events have to pertain to the Right to Food
Digest Of Mails - A New Feature
As this E-group continues to expand, we are receiving a growing number
of miscellaneous mails for dissemination in the group. Since we are committed
to avoid flooding you with messages, we are adding a new service with
the updates - "Digest of mails". From now on, such a digest
will feature in most "Updates". It will have a summary of the
miscellaneous messages, with a link to the complete message (whenever
possible) for those who are interested.
While most of the mails we receive are pertinent to the campaign, some
are not. We regret to inform you that we will not be able to circulate
irrelevant mails. All pertinent mails will feature in the Digests. We
apologise for the delay in circulating some of the mails. With this feature
becoming regular, we hope to disseminate in time.
Here is the first Digest:
Item 1: UP Appoints A Human Rights Commission
Uttar Pradesh has appointed a HRC after pressure from the UP PUCL. The
mail contains the details of the composition of the commission.
Item 2: PUCL Invites You To The 5th State Convention In Chittorgarh
(Rajasthan) On 23-24 November 2002
PUCL Rajasthan is having its convention to which you are invited. They
are looking at this Convention as an opportunity to consolidate and plan
afresh strategies for addressing human rights in the State. Simultaneous
one-day discussion workshops have been planned on the following themes:
security legislations and custodial violence, dalit rights, rights of
minorities and drought and food security, deaths and damage due to landmines,
expansion of the nuclear bomb and energy programme in Rajasthan, revival
of Sati and its glorification etc.
Item 3: Sutradhar Open Forum - Bangalore, 9 November 2002
The government-run ICDS (Integrated Child Development Scheme) has over
40,000 anganwadi centres in Karnataka. These offer a cluster of services
such as health, education and nutrition to ensure early childhood development,
the first step towards equal educational opportunity for all. Lakshmi
Krishnamurthy & Vani Periodi will share with us their study on anganwadi
centres in Karnataka. The discussion will be both in English and Kannada.
Item 4: The Situation In Baran And Call For Help
Komal Srivastava calls for help in Baran, Rajasthan and gives an account
of the situation there, the government response, etc.
To read the full text of the mails, please check http://geocities.com/righttofood/links/digest.html
The mails of the previous 2 weeks would be kept in this section.
We end with the usual reminders:
- Please visit/publicise
our website, http://geocities.com/righttofood
- If your organisation
has a newsletter, please consider using or reprinting items from this
Update to help spread awareness of the campaign.
- If you are an
active member of the campaign, please send us information from to time
about your activities, for inclusion in future Updates.
Contributions to the
Right to Food Update may be sent to email@example.com