Two Years On, Still No 'Right to Food' in Uttar Pradesh

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Lucknow: 

30-year-old Asma Khatoon lives in a slum in Lucknow and has never been able to benefit from the country's massive Public Distribution System. Asma's attempts to get a ration card made never materialised as she did not have an address proof for her temporary shack.

"I have paid money to get an ID card, Aadhar card but nothing has come. Somebody says go to the local representative, who says go elsewhere but nothing happens," said Asma.

Her husband is a daily wage labourer earning barely Rs 3000 a month for the family of five. Despite being at the very bottom of the social strata, her struggle for a ration card that can feed her young children continues.

The process of identifying beneficiaries is once again underway in Uttar Pradesh, for the Food Security Act passed by the UPA government in 2013. The act made Right to Food a legal entitlement, but complaints abound at her Dalit-Muslim slum. Some claim they have had to pay bribe to get ration cards, others say they have been asked to submit a family photograph which they didn't have. Some others gave up after doing rounds of several offices.

The scheme entitles 5 kg of wheat and rice per month to 70 per cent of the population, making it the largest food distribution system in the world. Yet, only 11 states have implemented the crucial scheme till now.

The Centre had asked all states to implement the act by April but the Uttar Pradesh government has now written to the central government asking for a six month extension. This after the Centre has already extended its deadline twice.

The Uttar Pradesh government took six months alone to decide on the criteria on which the scheme should be launched. "We took time for understanding some procedures, instructions have now been issued to district officers," said BM Meena, Principal Secretary, Food & Civil Supply.

Uttar Pradesh will be the biggest beneficiary under the new Food Security Act, with maximum increase in grain allocation but with the state asking for yet another extension, the wait for its population for their right to food, has only gotten longer.

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