PM urged to implement Food Act, MGNREGA ‘in letter and spirit’

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on January 20, 2018 Published on April 25, 2016

The parched cracked bed of the Gambheeram reservoir shows the severity of summer and drought. The reservoir is one of the water sources that meets the needs of Visakhapatnam city. - C.V.Subrahmanyam

Economists, ex-bureaucrats, film stars write to PM on drought crisis

Expressing ‘deep anxiety” over drought conditions and acute water scarcity in rural India, about 150 eminent citizens from all walks of life have written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ensure full implementation “in letter and spirit” of the National Food Security Act 2013 and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act 2005.

“The enormous distress — of food, drinking water, work, fodder for animals, and dignity — of hundreds of millions is utterly unacceptable,” said the open letter, written by former Plan panel member Syeda Hameed, former Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah, film personalities Shyam Benegal, Naseeruddin Shah, Shabana Azmi, Sharmila Tagore, activists Aruna Roy, Bezwada Wilson, sociologists Patricia Uberoi, Satish Deshpande, economists Jean Dreze, Prabhat Patnaik, among others.

With farmers in large parts of India’s countryside battling drought conditions and crop losses after failure of rains for two consecutive years, the letter warned that the consequence of rural distress could lead to massive “movement of populations, causing broken childhoods, interrupted education, life in camps, city pavements or crowded shanties.”

The letter called for ‘traditional’ measures to alleviate rural misery, such as arrangements to augment drinking water supply, including ensuring that marginalised hamlets have functioning tubewells and transporting water, as also creation of fodder banks and cattle camps.

Lamenting that the scale of MGNREGA works was way below what was required and wages often remain unpaid for months, the citizens also pointed out to “little” being done by the Centre and some States to implement the National Food Security Act, even three years after it came into force.

“Had the Act been in place, more than 80 per cent of rural households in the poorer states would be able to secure about half of their monthly cereal requirements almost free of cost. In a drought situation, food security entitlements should be made universal,” says the letter, adding that the worst hit were the elderly and the disabled, left behind when families migrate.

Published on April 25, 2016

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