Right to Food: ‘Gujarat violating SC order’
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The Gujarat Government has for eight years "outrightly violated" the Supreme Court's directions on guaranteeing the Right to Food and continue, since 2010, to employ two Rajasthan-based contractors at about Rs 500 crore to feed 32 lakh children below six years and eight lakh pregnant and lactating women, the SC's Commissioners, N C Saxena and Harsh Mander, on the issue has told the apex court.
The commissioners reported this is in spite of findings that the food supplied by these contractors is costlier, has a shorter shelf-life, is less nutritious and provides employment to only a fraction of people when compared to a decentralised process of food preparation by local women groups, which the SC has advocated since 2004.
Besides, the Rajasthan Government had June penalised one of these two contractors almost Rs 10 crore for supplying "poor quantity and quality" to its own food programme, the report also noted.
"Gujarat has been outrightly violating the orders of the Honorable Supreme Court in the matter of appointing contractors for the provisioning of Supplementary Nutrition Provisioning in the Integrated Child Development Scheme," the commissioners said in the report that pertains to Take Home Rations distributed under the scheme. It was submitted on November 30.
Samples of the "Extruded Micronutrient Fortified Blended Food" supplied by these contractors — Kota Dal Mills and Murliwala Agrotech, Udaipur — have also been tested at the National Institute of Nutrition, a CSIR laboratory in Hyderabad, and found to be far less nutritious in terms of proteins, calories, fat and vitamins when compared to the recommendations of Central guidelines, the SC was also told.
Interestingly, both the SC and the Gujarat High Court had directed Gujarat at least four times to do away with these contractors and entrust the preparation of such food to local women's groups.