KEY HIGHLIGHTS (Budgetary allocations sourced from Union Budget figures) :

  • Since 2015, at least 75 men, women and children have died of hunger across 10 states of India. 75% of these deaths took place in the last two years. The cause of death was “prolonged” hunger. Nearly 42 of these were because people were denied rations as their Aadhar did not function, or they didn’t have them.
  • The Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana which provides support to pregnant and lactating mothers was arbitrarily limited to the first birth, thus excluding 86% of pregnant and lactating women. Consequently, only 38 lakh women were supported as against the estimated 2.7 crore pregnant and lactating women across India.
  • The NDA has drastically cut expenditure for Mid-Day Meals, which fell from Rs. 10,523 crores in 2014-’15 to Rs. 9949 crore in 2018-’19.
  • The budget for the National Creche Scheme dropped from Rs. 98 crores spent in 2014-’15 to Rs. 30 crore in 2018-’19.

CHARGE 1: NO ACCOUNTABILITY FOR DEATHS DUE TO STARVATION

  • Since 2015, at least 75 men, women and children have died of hunger across 10 states of India as per the findings of a range of CSOs associated with the Right to Food Campaign (Complete list available on: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1MvdQfYbq8VYXGec7x9KqWG9JbPp6P2OZ/view). Prolonged hunger existed because there was no food or money in the house, and that, quite likely, s/he would have survived otherwise. Most of the victims were Adivasis, Dalits, Muslims or backward classes
  • In several states with acute rates of child malnutrition, infants have been on the front lines. That apart, denial of subsidised food grains rations under the Public Distribution System (PDS) or social security pensions account for most of the hunger deaths. Some victims were not enrolled in PDS or pensions, even though they were eligible for these programs.

CHARGE 2: RIGHT TO FOOD UNDERMINED BY MANDATORY AADHAR

  • The National Food Security Act (NFSA) was to signal a beginning of greater attention to the issues of food security, malnutrition and ensuring good quality and nutritious food for all. Despite this, the implementation of the NFSA was delayed three times (through executive orders, without going to the Parliament) by the NDA. The Act was finally implemented in 2016. Even then, expenditure on NFSA as percentage of GDP has dropped by 0.1%.
  • The NDA has put pressure on state governments to shift to Direct Bank Transfers in PDS and to make Aadhar mandatory. Many families’ services were discontinued as they were not linked with Aadhar. Some people died as they were unable to go to the ration shop or bank due to old age or sickness to authenticate their biometric identity. Others were unable to authenticate themselves due to glitches in the Aadhar technologies.
  • The main form of corruption in PDS which is ‘quantity fraud’ cannot even be addressed by Aadhaar. On the other hand, the NDA government has paid no attention to ensure implementation of the provisions for grievance redress and accountability in the NFSA.
  • The union government also refused to monitor the progress in appointment of district grievance redress officers (DGROs) or state food commissions, despite being questioned by the Supreme Court (in the ‘Swaraj Abhiyan’ case- WP Civil 857/2015).

CHARGE 3: INADEQUATE BUDGETARY RESOURCES FOR NUTRITION

  • The NDA has consistently slashed expenditure for Mid-Day Meals (actual amount spent on MDM fell from Rs. 10,523 crores in 2014-’15 to Rs. 9949 crore in 2018-’19). In the case of ICDS, there is some nominal increase but it is not sufficient to provide food and increase in honorarium to Anganwadi
  • The budget for the National Creche Scheme dropped from Rs. 98 crores spent in 2014-’15 to Rs. 30 crore in 2018-’19.
  • % of Total Budget Expenditure on Nutrition- 14.4% in 2014-’15 to 14.3% in 2018-’19
  • % of GDP on Nutrition- 1.9% to 1.8% (between 2014-’15 to 2018-’19).

CHARGE-4 : REDUCED COMPENSATION TO PREGNANT WOMEN UNDER NFSA

  • NFSA includes a provision of maternity benefit which has been truncated from Rs. 6000 to Rs.

5000 under the new scheme Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana (PM-MVY).

  • Furthermore, the NDA government deliberately delayed the notification of the PM-MVY which provides for support to pregnant and lactating mothers till 2017. Rs.5000 is restricted only for the first birth – this condition itself excludes half the pregnant women in the country, a disproportionate share of whom belong to poor and marginal communities. As of December 2018, only 38 lakh women (14 percent) were supported as against the estimated 2.7 crore pregnant and lactating women nationwide.

CHARGE 5 : NON-IMPLEMENTATION OF ANGANWADI-CUM-CRECHE PLANS

  • The Restructured ICDS of 2011 included a provision for anganwadi cum creches – despite this being included in the annual work plans of some states, the NDA government has not paid any attention to this scheme. Even the national creche scheme saw a decline in resources allocated in the last five years.