01/28/2016, 20.35
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Two years after its adoption, India’s anti-hunger law still "unconvincing"

by Nirmala Carvalho

Fr Irudaya Jothi sj, a well known social activist, speaks about the legislation that was supposed to eliminate hunger in India. In its original version, its reach was much wider. Under its current form, it excludes various groups. in addition, the problem of corruption still hangs over its implementation. The Church remains on the forefront of the campaign to increase the visibility of the problem of hunger.

Kolkata (AsiaNews) – Hunger remains a major problem in India. After two years, the National Food Security Act, which was supposed to addressed the issue, has not yet achieved its intended goal.

“What was supposed to eliminate hunger and malnutrition among 800 million Indians has not had encouraging results,” said Fr Irudaya Jothi SJ, a prominent activist and coordinator of the Right to Food Campaign, a network of over 500 NGOs in West Bengal. Sadly, in a country where poverty is still widespread, “the food aid programme has reached only two thirds of those in need, so that many people are still going hungry in the country”.

For the Jesuit, who also heads the Udayani (Awakening) Social Action Centre in Kolkata, the government’s much touted policy has had bitter results so far. Launched in August 2013 by the former Congress-led administration, the National Food Security Act was adopted by parliament despite doubts expressed by experts, concerned that its large funds could get lost in the pockets of corrupt administrators in charge of delivering the programme.

Under the original draft bill, the government would be required to provide 5kg of subsidised food grain per person per month at a regulated price of 1-3 rupees per kilo as well as free meals for pregnant women, nursing mothers, children between six months and 14 years, malnourished children and the homeless. However, the actual legislation left out some groups.

Today, people continue to die of hunger in India. In West Bengal, “The 2015-16 National Family Health Survey found that there are more malnourished children under five today than in 2005,” Fr Jothi said.

"The Catholic Church and civil society groups have campaigned vigorously for the approval of this law, and have tried to raise its visibility through sit-ins and protests,” but results fall far short of expectations.

Despite this, "the Church continues to work with the disadvantaged, following the example of Mother Teresa and the Missionaries of Charity,” the Jesuit clergyman said. “Jesus, with his words and his actions, fed the hungry and gave drink to the thirsty. We, as his followers, must continue the work of mercy to provide an improved system and remedies on a large scale."

Finally, Fr Jothi has a few words of gratitude for AsiaNews, which “helped us raise awareness about these terrible living conditions and draw public attention and that of the authorities about the problem of hunger and malnutrition.”

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