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[RightToFood] Update 20: LATEST DEVELOPMENTS

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  • shaji john
    UPDATE 20: LATEST DEVELOPMENTS Dear friends, This Update discusses a sample of recent developments in various states. As always, we are unable to keep track of
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 19, 2003
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      To keep it short and sweet,I have taken out sections dealing with other states :-)You can see the full update at www.righttofood.com.


      Dear friends,

      This Update discusses a sample of recent developments in various
      states. As always, we are unable to keep track of all the relevant
      activities, given the decentralised nature of the campaign. We take
      this opportunity to remind you that we are always interested in news
      from the field. Please send any useful information you may have to

      Today's headlines:










      The campaign for universal mid-day meals in primary schools is in
      full swing as children flock back to school after the summer
      vacation. Here is a sample of recent developments:

      (1) Full implementation in Karnataka: The Karnataka government
      extended the mid-day meal scheme to all districts in the first week
      of July (before that, the scheme was restricted to 7 districts).
      Initial media reports highlight cases of children falling ill as well
      as parental objections to the appointment of Dalit cooks. Some
      parents from Government schools in the districts of Tumkur, Mysore
      and Chamarajnagar refused to allow their children to eat school
      lunches prepared by Dalit women. Moreover, inferior quality of food
      grains and unhygienic cooking conditions are said to be the reasons
      for students taking ill. According to newspaper reports, the
      Government has ordered an inquiry into the incidents. To put things
      in perspective, "teething problems" of this kind have been a feature
      of the initial phase of mid-day meal schemes in many states. The
      situation typically improves over time. This is not to diminish the
      importance of the quality issues that emerge from these incidents.

      (2) MDMs in Delhi: The Municipal Corporation of Delhi launched
      a "cooked mid-day meal" programme in about 400 primary schools in the
      capital on July 4, 2003 in collaboration with various NGOs and ISKCON
      (International Society for Krishna Consciousness). It is reported
      that children relished the lentil, rice and 'suji halwa' laid out on
      sparkling steel plates by the volunteers of ISKCON on the first day
      of the programme. ISKCON has agreed to provide cooked meals to 1,265
      students in five schools near its temple in South Delhi as of now. It
      remains to be seen how the Delhi Government proposes to implement
      Supreme Court orders in the vast majority of schools not included in
      this project.

      (3) MDM Research: A field survey of mid-day meals in three states
      (Rajasthan, Karnataka and Chhattisgarh) was launched earlier this
      year by a research team based at the Centre for Equity Studies, New
      Delhi. The study is nearing completion and a preview of the main
      findings is to be published in Frontline on 1 August. Here are some
      highlights of the summary report:

      "The survey suggests that school meals have made a promising start
      around the country. However, there are serious quality issues, which
      need urgent attention if mid-day meal programmes are to realise their
      full potential.

      On the positive side, mid-day meals have led to impressive increases
      in school participation. Taking the 81 sample schools together, Class-
      1 enrolment rose by 15% after mid-day meals were introduced.
      Especially impressive is the increase of 29% in female enrolment in
      the sample villages of Rajasthan in class 1. Informal evidence
      reveals that mid-day meals have also enhanced daily school attendance.

      The survey did not find much evidence of open caste discrimination in
      the context of mid-day meals, such as separate sitting arrangements.
      Pupils of all social backgrounds seem to be quite happy to sit
      together and share the same food. However, caste prejudices do
      prevail in various forms, as when upper-caste parents insist on their
      children coming home for lunch. Also, there is much resistance to the
      appointment of Dalit cooks. In Karnataka, half of the cooks are
      Dalits, but in Rajasthan, the survey did not find any Dalit cooks
      except in some all-Dalit villages.

      The quality of school-meal programmes seems significantly better in
      Karnataka than in Chhattisgarh or Rajasthan. Karnataka has made
      comparatively good progress in building a sound infrastructure for
      mid-day meals: most cooks enjoy the assistance of a "helper", and a
      substantial proportion of schools (31 per cent) already have a pacca
      kitchen. In contrast, the mid-day meal infrastructure in Chhattisgarh
      and Rajasthan is still highly inadequate: most cooks have to manage
      on their own in the most challenging circumstances, without
      elementary facilities such as a helper, kitchen or proper utensils.

      Mid-day meals are quite popular in each of the three sample states. A
      large majority of parents (91%) and teachers (84%) favour the
      continuation of the mid-day meal scheme. Those who advocate
      discontinuation belong mainly to privileged castes or classes who
      seem to see mid-day meals as a threat to the prevailing social

      (4) In a pioneering initiative, Bharat Gyan Vigyan Samiti (BGVS)
      proposes to start "monitoring" the mid-day meal scheme in
      Chhattisgarh through monthly visits to every school in six sample
      districts. The short questionnaire to be used for these monthly
      inspections will be posted in the "Mid-day meals" section of the
      website (www.righttofood.com) very soon, for possible use elsewhere.
      Readers interested in this initiative are invited to contact Mr.
      Lakhan Singh, BGVS-Chhattisgarh (cgbgvs@...).


      As mentioned in earlier Updates (available on the website, in case
      you missed them), there was a wave of public hearings on the right to
      food last June, notably in Chittorgarh (Rajasthan), Kalahandi
      (Orissa), Dindori (Madhya Pradesh), Shivpuri (Madhya Pradesh) and
      Sendwa (Madhya Pradesh again). In all cases, there has been active
      follow-up of the issues raised at the public hearing. In particular,
      cases of violations of the right to food have been taken up with the
      concerned authorities, with varying degrees of success. In some
      cases, as in Dindori, there was extensive on-the-spot redressal at
      the public hearing itself (see Update 19). In others, as in Shahdol
      (M.P.), partial successes in securing redressal during the follow-up
      phase have been mixed with incidents of suppression and repression.
      Below is a digest of recent feedback received from some of these

      (1) Dindori: Following the Jan Sunwai (public hearing) held on the 8
      June 2003 at village Dhaba, district Dindori (M.P.), there has been
      encouraging progress on the decisions taken that day. The Baiga
      Mahapanchayat that organised the Jan Sunwai has informed Dr. Mihir
      Shah, advisor to the Commissioners for M.P., that the district
      administration has moved fast on distribution of Antyodaya cards to
      all members of the Baiga "primitive" tribe as per the latest order of
      the Supreme Court. The process is expected to be completed soon. As a
      direct result of the Jan Sunwai, employment programmes have also
      begun in many forest villages where they had been stalled for years
      due to restrictions imposed by the Forest Department. The District
      Collector has sent Dr. Mihir Shah a copy of his instructions to all
      line departments to take urgent steps to act upon the nearly 50
      complaints received during the Jan Sunwai from the Baigas regarding
      non-payment of wages, corruption related matters, etc. The Baiga
      Mahapanchayat is closely monitoring action on this.

      (2) Shivpuri: We have received a follow-up report on the Shivpuri
      public hearing (30 May 2003) from S.K. Singh of Sahariya Jan Andolan
      in Shivpuri. According to this report: "Shivpuri Jansunwai has
      created frantic ripples in the district. The machinery has been very
      quick to act upon the demands raised in the memorandum. No effort was
      made by any quarter to refute the allegations. The points raised in
      the memorandum were taken up in the district drought relief meetings
      and block level janpad meetings, the information given in the
      memorandum was totally verifiable, thus CEO and Sarpanch had no
      defence." The demands that have been dealt with include: outstanding
      payments to labourers employed on relief works; action against
      persons responsible for embezzling grain from the public distribution
      system; water supply arrangements in drought-affected villages;
      distribution of Antyodaya cards to Sahariya families; starting of
      relief works in villages where there were none before.
      The report adds: "The sarpanch, secretaries and the block CEO seem
      agitated and upset of the activist as the information provided by
      them has been used against them as a result of which they have shown
      keen interest in helping the sangathan in every possible manner in
      future� While local community is happy that jansunwai was helpful in
      raising their concerns, local PRI and block functionaries did not
      like it They are feeling very embarrassed. Shivnarayan , the local
      activist is being cornered and provoked by name calling and threats
      of "we will see you."


      (Based on communication received from Sanjay Rai, Lucknow.) Even
      though people working under SGRY in Mau District, situated in the
      Eastern part of the state Uttar Pradesh, are entitled to Rs. 23 and 5
      kg of rice per working day, the workers have only received the cash
      allowance and not the rice for the period between April 2002 and
      March 2003. On average, about 100 kg of rice is already owed to each
      worker under the scheme. Considering the low cash payment, the people
      and their families are highly dependent on this rice ration. It is
      reported that 584,5 tons of rice has been issued to the Local
      Marketing Inspector, out of which only 247 tons have been delivered
      further to the Gram Panchayats (village administrations). Even these
      247 tons did not reach the people they were meant for: the total
      amount of missing rice comprises over 500 tons! Although the
      responsible inspector apologised on 26 April 2003 and promised to
      distribute the missing rice within a week, nothing has happened.
      Furthermore, some district authorities have claimed that
      the "disappeared" rice, which was meant for the poor, is sold in the
      black market of the neighbouring states.

      In Bharaich, U.P. displaced people have been denied BPL Ration Cards.
      Bharaich is one of the most backward districts of UP. Though it has
      rich natural resources in terms of water and forest, the main source
      of water, Ghaghra River, has been shifting its course since 2000.
      About 1200 families in the last 2 years have been displaced. The main
      occupation of these families was agriculture but the river has
      submerged all their land. There is no land with the local Gram-
      panchayats for redistribution and the government is providing sandy
      land to the families for relocation. Since there are no forests or
      ponds in the area and no scope for labour, people do not want to
      settle there. Women are especially facing problems due to this
      situation. Since there is no opportunity for agriculture due to loss
      of land, people are solely dependent upon labour work for which they
      migrate to cities like Lucknow, Delhi, Ludhiana and Amritsar.
      However, because of unavailability of labour even in these cities,
      people are coming back empty handed. This has become the main cause
      of food insecurity. The displaced people have no grain. Some of them
      manage through either loan or labour work. Some displaced people take
      a loan for their food requirement. Since the loan provider is only
      local moneylender he has been lending money at the rate of
      Rs.10/hundred/month. Visthapit Sangharsh Morcha (a people's
      organisation for the displaced) with support of FIAN-U.P has been
      arranging meetings with victims for the identification of displaced
      families that are entitled to BPL cards and to create
      pressure on the government.


      Dr. N.C. Saxena, Commissioner of the Supreme Court, is about to spend
      a few days in Lucknow and surrounding areas, to investigate the food
      situation there. He is particularly concerned about Uttar Pradesh's
      failure to introduce mid-day meals in primary schools � a clear
      violation of Supreme Court orders. Dr. Saxena will be holding
      meetings with high-levels civil servants (including the Chief
      Secretary and the Secretary to the Chief Minister), as well as with
      individuals and organisations involved in the right to food campaign
      there. He will also be spending time in the field, notably in Barawan
      (district Hardoi), where much has happened in recent months (see
      earlier Updates).


      "Hunger Watch Group", a group of medical professionals, will be
      organising a training workshop in Bhopal on 16-17 August. The
      participants will be learning and discussing rigorous methods of
      documenting "starvation deaths", developed recently by Hunger Watch
      Group. If you are interested in participating, please contact Dr.
      Abhay Shukla of CEHAT, who is one of the organisers of the meeting


      The campaign website (www.righttofood.com) has just been reloaded.
      The new version features an improved design, aimed at easier
      navigation, as well as a good deal of new material. Hindi
      translations of the key documents are also being added regularly.
      Some pages are still under construction, and we hope that you will
      bear with us until these pages become available. In case you have any
      comments or queries on the website, please drop in a line at:

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