The Supreme Court has told the centre to give latest data on the number of people who died due to starvation in the country and frame a national model scheme to combat hunger. During a hearing today, a bench headed by Chief Justice of India NV Ramana said, "Are you saying there are no starvation deaths in the country except for one? Can we depend on that statement?"
The centre had relied on a 2015-2016 report on starvation deaths.
"With states governments not reporting any starvation death, is it to be understood there is no starvation death in the country? Government of India should give us data on starvation deaths, latest information. Ask your officer to give us information," the court told Attorney General KK Venugopal.
"It's election time. If you frame the policy and give additional food grains, then states will want to implement the cooked food policy," the Supreme Court said.
When Mr Venugopal told the court that there are 134 schemes in place and more funds cannot be diverted to states as food grains are already being distributed to them, the bench told the centre to consider providing additional food grains.
It directed the centre to formulate a national model scheme for community kitchens, in consultation with states and other stakeholders, which can include extending additional logistics, resources and food grains.
"Our focus is that people should not suffer from hunger, die of hunger. You have to discuss with your officers to come up with a nodal scheme. We have explained the intention of this court and need to explore a solution," the Chief Justice of India told Mr Venugopal.
"We are not on larger issues of malnutrition... hunger is to be satisfied. Everyone is admitting there's an issue, Have a humanitarian approach. Ask your officers to apply their mind," he added.
The Chief Justice said, "We are not saying that you (centre) are not doing anything to deal with hunger or starvation... but consider a model scheme nationally. Draft a scheme, finalise it and then leave it to states".
The lawyer said the centre will consider the court's suggestions. "We can make a scheme with this... Two per cent additional food grains will be made available to states. Let states file an affidavit and see if this two per cent is acceptable to all the states."
The court adjourned the matter for two weeks and said states can file additional affidavits on malnutrition, hunger and other issues till then.