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Living with Food Insecurity in Uttar Pradesh

Many residents of Shivpuri village in Uttar Pradesh are living in vulnerability without the food security that comes with having a ration card.

Have you wondered if elected governments would be more efficient in delivering promises if elections were held every year instead of every five? The Uttar Pradesh government is diving in with a three-month economic and caste survey to ensure people are receiving the benefits of government schemes such as access to ration cards. The Lok Sabha polls are to be held in 2019, making this a classic example of governments waking up only around election time.

The current BJP-led government’s time at the Centre is almost at the end of its tenure. The current UP government is also a BJP-led one, which means that perceptions will go a long way in bringing Narendra Modi back to 7 Race Course Road next year. This makes it a lucrative time to hold intense investigations of government schemes intended for the welfare of people. In the midst of politics, however, 17 families in Shivpuri village in the Pahla Block of Sitapur District have been going hungry as they struggle to get ration cards even after 10 years of approaching officials at all levels, reports Community Correspondent Harishankar Gupta.

Gayatri Devi, who has four children to support, is only able to put food on the plates when her husband, a daily wage labourer, is able to find work and thus able to purchase rice for 50-60 rupees. “If he doesn’t find work, then we all go hungry,” she says.

Similarly, Sonia says, “If I can find daily wage labour, then the day is taken care of. But I am not always able to find work, and on those days,  I go hungry ” She has gone from pillar to post to get a ration card, but so far all her efforts have been in vain.

The National Food Security Act, 2013 was brought into force to end exactly this day-to-day vulnerable living of people. The intention of the bill, as mentioned in a Lok Sabha committee report, says that “the proposed legislation marks a paradigm shift in addressing the problem of food security – from the current welfare approach to a right based approach.” Access to food is a right, not a privilege, and so ration cards are issued with the purpose of proving food grains at subsidised rates from the Public Distribution System (PDS) to households living below the poverty line.

Since 2000, while the world has been able to reduce hunger by 27%, India has been able to do so only by 18%, according to the 2017 Global Hunger Index report by the International Food Policy. It ranks 100 out of 119 countries in terms of providing food security to people. The only country India ranks better than among its neighbouring countries including China, Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar, is Pakistan.

More specifically, India has the highest number of undernourished people in the world at 194.6 million people, according to The State of Food Insecurity in the World report (2015) by the Food and Agriculture Organisation. It said, “Higher economic growth has not been fully translated into higher food consumption…suggesting that the poor and hungry may have failed to benefit from overall growth.”

Earlier this year, a 13-year-old girl committed suicide after having gone hungry for two days. Her mother, a daily wage labourer was unable to find work and provide food. More recently in June this year (2018), a 58-year-old woman without a ration card in Giridih district of Jharkhand died of starvation. Shivpuri village hasn’t yet recorded any such deaths, but how long until they are able to beat the odds? Help the residents of Shivpuri village get ration cards by calling the Sub-Divisional Magistrate of Mehmoodabad, Uttar Pradesh at +91-9454416536 and apprising them of the situation.

Video by Community Correspondent Harishankar Gupta

Article by Shreya Kalra, a member of the VV Editorial Team

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