Marginalised communities, under the banner of the National Confederation of Dalit Organisations (NACDOR), have called for redesigning of the national nutrition policy on the basis of a life cycle approach aimed at communities that face acute nutritional deficiencies.
In a declaration adopted here at a four-day Dalit convention on Tuesday, NACDOR also sought immediate passage of the Right to Food Bill with universal provision for 40 kg of grains per family, per month on subsidised rates and an additional 20 per cent allocation to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe families.
“The nutritional well-being of all SC/ST and other vulnerable communities is a pre-condition for the development of societies and should be a key objective of progress in human development,” it said.
Among other demands, NACDOR said food coupons should be provided to the homeless, jobless and destitute, irrigation facilities must be improved, other farm inputs must be made available to SC/ST small and marginal farmers, and a national nutrition authority must be set up to eliminate malnutrition and under-nutrition with representatives for the sections suffering the most.
Resolving to work in co-operation with the Government and other agencies, NACDOR said a grassroots nutrition activists should be appointed from the marginalised communities for implementing the flagship schemes.
To eliminate untouchability, it proposed that all cooking staff for the mid-day meal scheme be appointed from among the SC/ST community.
According to a study by social scientist, Sukhdeo Thorat, and researcher Joel Lee, “caste discrimination afflicts more than one out of three PDS shops and more than one out of three Government schools serving mid-day meals (national averages of 35.5 per cent and 37 per cent, respectively).”
The study found that this is a nationwide problem — from 24 per cent in Andhra Pradesh to 52 per cent in Rajasthan, to a vast majority in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.