Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen on Friday said that the tabling of the Food Security Bill in Parliament was “a big achievement”, but also drew attention to its shortcomings and called for it to be strengthened, especially with regard to child entitlements.

He was participating in a panel discussion on ‘Hunger and Nutrition: Time to Act’ held at IIT- Delhi, with Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman, Planning Commission, Shantha Sinha, Chairperson, National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights, Reetika Khera of the IIT faculty and NREGA activist, a Right to Food Campaign release said.

Addressing an audience of about 1,500 students and faculty, Sen recalled the critical importance of early childhood for lifetime health and well-being and flayed the fact that children’s entitlements under the Bill were weak.

Children’s rights

He pointed out that there were powerful lobbies for diesel and LPG subsidies, and even for exemptions of Custom duties on gold imports, but not for children’s rights.

He said recent the Supreme Court orders on mid-day meals and the Integrated Child Development Services had made an important contribution to the health and nutrition of children. The Bill, he felt, should not dilute these entitlements in any way.


Ahluwalia agreed that malnutrition among children was indeed a national shame, as the Prime Minister said a year ago.

Also a matter of shame, he said, was the state of nutrition statistics, with the latest comprehensive data on child health and nutrition going back to the Third National Family Health Survey, conducted in 2005-06.

He stressed the need for interventions related to immunisation, breastfeeding, drinking water and sanitation.

The Plan panel Deputy Chairman also said that the Government was committed to a public distribution system that provided access to subsidised grains.

Food Bill costs

Anticipating concerns about the costs of the Food Bill, he said: “I don’t think the Government or anyone else should say that we can’t afford the food subsidy because of the fiscal deficit… that would be actually dishonest.’

He added, however, that funding the Bill might call for a reduction of other expenditure.